In March, a new proposal was submitted to build eight homes of modern design in the grounds of Linney House. Now Shropshire Council’s planning officers have said the plans contravene planning policy and are likely to be refused. A letter sent to the site developer eight days ago is a lengthy 14 pages. But the message it conveys is clear. The environmental damage and harm to the Ludlow Conservation Area from the proposed scheme would be unacceptable. At most, three houses can be accommodated on the site and there is already permission for this. Shropshire Council is likely to reject the current application to increase the number of houses to eight.
The planners’ letter does not mark the end of this seven-year attempt to build in woodland in the garden of the Grade II listed Linney House. The developer must decide whether to withdraw the current application or press ahead regardless. If the plans are turned down, he might appeal to the planning inspectorate. He would also be within his rights to go to planning inspectorate for a decision without waiting for a formal decision from the council. Or he might opt to build the scheme for three large houses approved in 2014 and 2017.
The most recent application followed previous approval of three homes on the site in 2014. That permission was renewed in 2017, when the site owner made it clear he had no intention of building the scheme submitted. Instead, he was doing no more than keeping the planning permission alive until a new proposal was drawn up. That proposal was submitted in March (19/00826/FUL). It quickly ran into trouble over the loss of trees, along with concerns about heritage, highways and ecology. Now, the planning case officer scrutinising the plans has said the scheme is unlikely to be approved because it conflicts with local and national planning policies.
The pre-application advice given by Shropshire Council to the developer, James Hepworth, was positive. But a new planner examining the detailed plans says that advice is not binding on the council. He has approached the application with “fresh eyes”. He says that the main issue of discussion to date has been the loss of trees in 2015 and the level of compensatory planting and landscaping. But there was no identified need for a development of eight homes in a town which has given permission for more than 800 homes in the current local plan period.
The planner conceded that the scheme would offer some public benefits, including the restoration and repair of the stone wall along the Linney. The affordable housing contribution, which is required because the development is over 1,000 sqm, would also be a positive benefit. (This would be one home or 15% of the cost of the scheme.) But the five homes now proposed in addition to the three already approved are would not be a benefit to Ludlow which has enough planning permissions to meet its guideline target for housebuilding to 2026.
The landscaping scheme for the site is fundamental in maintaining the wooded character of the site and ensuring that the development meets the demanding tests of Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990:
“Revision to the site layout involving a potential reduction in the proposed number of dwellings will be necessary in order to ensure the that the landscaping scheme is viable in the medium to long term. This will be necessary before the scheme can consider to either preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area. The development will have an adverse effect on important woodland and green infrastructure and the contribution of that to amenity and the local ecological network. It will require the removal of remaining trees on the site barring a strip of 40 or so trees scattered along the boundary of the River Corve.”
Planners conclude the current application would not protect, restore or enhance the quality of compensatory planting agreed after earlier felling of trees. Instead, it would undermine the long-term quality and functionality as a habitat and would not compensate for the loss of previous vegetation and biodiversity. Screening of the site would be diminished, as would its contribution to the character and amenity of the area.
In the letter, Shropshire Council’s planners conclude that the benefits of the scheme would outweigh the harm that will be caused by the scheme to the historic and natural environment:
“It is difficult to see how any scheme much in excess of the existing consented scheme for the three houses could be designed and constructed whilst ensuring the protection, restoration and enhancement of the woodland on the site.”
That’s a clear message to the promoters of this development. The proposal contravenes local and national planning rules. If they press ahead, it is likely to be refused.