Housing group Connexus is appealing against the South Planning Committee’s rejection of its plans for five bungalows on the green at the bottom of Charlton Rise. The committee refused the scheme twice. In its evidence to the planning inspectorate, council planners revealed that they were divided on whether the scheme should be recommended for approval. One officer wrote a dissenting report which said that the scheme should be refused because of the loss of the Norway Maple, the reduction in open space and poor design.
The South Planning Committee had no knowledge of this report when it rejected the application for the second time. But it said the plans must be refused because of the loss of the Norway Maple, the reduction in open space and poor design.
We councillors knew that there had been a disagreement among planners about this scheme. But we were not privy to the details. We certainly had not seen the dissenting report. It had been replaced by a report to the committee that favoured the scheme and played down its problems. The South Planning Committee was not convinced by the arguments and rejected the scheme for a second time.
That led Connexus – the housing group that has absorbed South Shropshire Housing Association – to lodge an appeal with the planning inspectorate in Bristol. That appeal is now in progress. There will be no public enquiry. The appeal will proceed by paperwork.
Tracey Huffer and I have submitted statements to the appeal. Previous written comments have been copied to the planning inspectorate. We won’t know whether others have commented and will not do so until the planning inspector publishes the decision. The appeal is on the planning inspectorate website and the paperwork to date on Shropshire Council’s website.
The latest paperwork is from Shropshire Council. It admits planning officers were divided on the application – to the extent of an officer producing a dissenting report. Shropshire Council is completely honest about how divided opinion was within the council:
“The proposal was so marginal that there was a difference of opinion amongst officers and one case officer (there were several during consideration of the two applications) compiled a draft report which supported a recommendation for refusal… The concerns which the officer identified in making their recommendation to refuse, very much reflected the similar concerns that Committee identified in subsequently taking their decision.”
The council’s formal opinion is that the South Planning Committee got the decision right. Of course, that begs the question of why it recommended the committee approved the application in the first place. However, planning is a continual process of reflection and reassessment.
The council’s opinion continues:
“The Council acknowledges that there is that is a finely balanced judgment which the appointed Inspector needs to make, taking into account both the positive and negative impacts of the proposed development, but would urge the Inspector to ultimately give greater weight to the concerns identified in the attached draft report. These concerns have also been firmly identified by the Planning Committee members, the Town Council, and local residents. Clearly if these concerns are afforded the greater weight as suggested then the appeal should be dismissed and the Council respectfully request that this be the case.”
This is a planning appeal Ludlow deserves to win. We need social housing. We also need green spaces and places we enjoy living in. We will know the outcome of the appeal in a few weeks.