South Shropshire could benefit from extra funding under the umbrella of a new National Landscapes Service if recommendations of a report to the government published yesterday are accepted. There will be new national parks but not in Shropshire. My proposal last year to create a Shropshire Hills National Park failed to gain widespread support. A government commissioned review is calling for a new national park in the Chilterns and says that the government should also consider creating national parks in the Cotswolds and Dorset. I would not be surprised if other areas of outstanding natural beauty unilaterally declare themselves to be national parks. They will be following the footsteps of the Broads and London in doing so. Maybe we should do the same in Shropshire.
I was tied up with meetings and business yesterday and only spotted Shropshire Council’s April Fools Day joke late in the day. The council celebrated its tenth birthday and no doubt there was much back slapping. The press release says everything about Shropshire Council. It pleads that it has had a few difficult years. Those difficult years were created by the Conservative leadership which became obsessed with stripping everything out of the council and either transferring functions to its company, ip&e or closing them down altogether. The council company of course failed. The council has improved and in its press release yesterday it boasted a suite of achievements, all of them in Shrewsbury.
It is time we had capital funding to improve our smaller market towns, not just in Shrewsbury and Oswestry.
I have put forward a motion for next Thursday’s Shropshire Council meeting aiming to establish a capital fund for investment in the smaller market towns including Ludlow.
We must keep our smaller town centres alive. That will benefit residents and visitors. It will also ensure that Shropshire Council maintains its income from council tax and business rates.
Islabikes is a growing company based on the Ludlow Food Centre site in Bromfield. It wants to expand and is apply for a permission for works to adapt a unit on Lower Barns Business Park south of Ludford village. These low-key works involve new windows and a glass door to Unit 10, a new porous-surfaced car park, a bike shed and a children’s bike test track. This looks a very good application from a significant Ludlow employer.
Chancellor Philip Hammond yesterday afternoon announced a significant but temporary reduction in business rates for smaller retail businesses.
This is good news for market towns like Ludlow. For the next two years, the Chancellor’s statement will reduce crippling business rate bills by around £500,000 over the next two years in Ludlow. We are a town with more than 70 independent retailers. That money will help local businesses survive. It will be pumped back into Ludlow’s economy.
The news of a tax on digital retailers is also good news. Our high streets are not in competition with the internet giants but they should not be left at a disadvantage because of the business rate burden they face.