It is rare that an application for permission to build houses is straightforward. In Ludlow, it seems that is almost never the case. The application to build eight homes in a modern style in the grounds of Linney House is a case in point. This has been a much abused site over the years with permissions given that would not get through the tougher planning system in place today. Trees on the property have been felled without consent. This application, submitted to Shropshire Council last February, has now hit new stumbling blocks (19/00826/FUL). The scheme was already subject to an energetic complaint from the council’s tree officer. Highways officers said several matters must be resolved before planning permission is granted. Shropshire Council’s ecologists now say they are not happy with the plans. They are demanding more information to be assured that protected species are not damaged. They are concerned about disturbance to otters. The council’s heritage team want the scheme thrown out unless significant improvements are made, including a reduction in the number of houses.
This is tough talk from officers and I am not expecting approval of this scheme anytime soon.
The council’s ecology team have called for further information on the proposals. Officers are concerned that the development will “involve relatively large amounts of earth moving on site and to within less than 10m of the bank of the River Corve”. They ask what measures are proposed to prevent sediment washing down these slopes into the Corve and then into the Teme site of special scientific interest (SSSI)? The ecologists call for Natural England to be consulted on the scheme. According to the planning portal, the only government agency to be consulted to date is the Environment Agency, which does not deal with ecology.
The ecology survey must be updated as the published report is three years old. It was based on a site visit in February 2016, too early in the year to understand the full habitat potential of the site. The tree cover at Linney House is not ancient woodland. “It does support important semi-natural habitat at a local level and is used by protected species. It also lies immediately adjacent to the River Corve and lies completely within the Environmental Network.”
There are otters on the Teme and the Corve. In 2016, no otter nests were observed on the site, though spraints and footprints were noted within 200m. The ecologists say:
“It is clear that this section of river is used regularly by otters and probably on a nightly basis throughout the year. Artificial lighting and noise could impact otter during its nocturnal activities and migrations, particularly at night. Construction operations should generally be limited to daylight hours.”
That will be a challenge to Shropshire Council which routinely mandates 10 hours of construction on weekdays.
The council’s conservation team want the planning application rejected unless significant improvements are made.
Officers say the proposed development of eight homes will not harm the setting of the Grade II listed Linney House because that setting was already damaged in the 1960s and 1970s when quarrying operations took place in the garden area. The team “welcomes the contemporary design concept behind the scheme… It has the potential to provide a greater level of architectural interest within the conservation area than the previously approved developments would otherwise provide.”
But in order to maintain the character of the conservation area, the critical comments made by the council’s tree team must be addressed. The number of houses must be reduced:
“A revision to the site layout, and consequently a potential reduction in the proposed number of units, is necessary in order to ensure that the landscaping scheme is viable in the medium to long term. This will be necessary before the scheme can be consider to either preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, thus causing less than substantial harm to its significance as a designated heritage asset.”
That’s a big ask but reducing the number of homes on the scheme would ease ecological and conservation concerns, as well as reducing increase of traffic on the Linney.
The stone wall bounding Linney is to be repaired during this development. “These repairs would in principle provide benefit to the wider Conservation Area” but the conservation team are reserving judgement until highways objections are resolved.
Earlier, Shropshire Highways objected to the access onto Linney. WSP, Shropshire Council’s consultants for highways, had complained that no details had been provided on the visibility vehicles will have when they leave the site. This visibility must be permanent and not reliant on hedge maintenance. The speed of traffic on the road must also be considered. There is a danger that traffic speeds will increase if plans to straighten the road when a stone wall is rebuilt go ahead.
Currently, the speed limit on the Linney is 30mph but most people drive more slowly. I am favour of bringing the Linney into the 20mph zone. That’s easy to do as Linney links two ends of the current 20mph zone in the town centre. Shropshire Highways has confirmed that Linney meets the requirements for a 20mph speed limit without the need for speed humps.
The developer’s plans include a pedestrian access to the development immediately opposite the footpath through St Leonard’s churchyard. WSP says that this proposal does not follow guidelines for “secure by design”. No traffic must approach a pedestrian crossing from a blind bend. WSP said it has “concern that pedestrians are being brought out into a passing place where a vehicle could suddenly appear and pull up across the entrance. Exiting pedestrians are required to be protected from this likelihood.” There must be no foliage “which could secret a perpetrator”.
All in all, that is quite comprehensive criticism from Shropshire Highways.
The problem of the steps can probably be resolved by increasing the slope of the footpath from the proposed 1 in 24 gradient. I have never liked this pedestrian access having a gate. That will of course be locked much of the time – otherwise have a gate? That will restrict access to the new open space created by this development. I don’t approve of creating private open spaces. I will ask the council to impose a planning condition preventing the gate being locked during daylight hours.