Year: 2014

A major programme of gas mains replacement is planned for Ludlow during 2015. A total of 700 metres of pipes will be replaced by National Grid Gas and their contractors Balfour Beatty. Streets from New Road to Temeside will be closed or controlled with traffic signals at some point. The work will involve a mixture of open tranches for pipe replacement and intermittent pits for slip lining existing pipework. There are no dates for the works yet. We are arranging meetings with the contractors and council officials. We especially want to avoid disruptions during the festivals and other days when visitors flock to Ludlow. We will as always keep you informed about the plans.

Yesterday was another lively day at the South Planning Committee. Planning committees are always controversial these days. That’s because most decisions are taken by officers and the three planning committees (North, Central and South) only get to see the most complex and controversial applications. I wasn’t the least bit surprised that we unanimously voted against a cluster of wooden holiday chalets at the Wenlock Edge Inn (14/02184/FUL). They were on the wrong side of the road from the Inn, were in the wrong style and would have damaged views in a sensitive area of the AONB. We had strong and consistent grounds for rejected the plans under the National Planning Policy Framework, Shropshire Core Strategy and the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan. The huge solar farm at Sheriffhales was much more difficult (14/03444/FUL). I was impressed by the community support for the scheme, the biodiversity plans and the development of a bond to pay for decommissioning. That swung me in favour of an installation I would normally prefer to be on factory roofs. But there were very strong objections to the scheme taking up good quality (best and most versatile) land. The plans were rejected by a single vote.

Shropshire Council’s cabinet is set, on Wednesday 10 December, to cancel distribution of the government grant that ministers say it should be giving to local councils across Shropshire.This means that from next April, nearly half a million pounds destined for town and parish councils will be hoarded by Shropshire Council to keep its council tax down. This will force many local councils to put their precepts up, while Shropshire Council keeps its council tax flat. This move, if approved, will mean that Ludlow Town Council will lose £65,000 in grant aid over the next two financial years. Across the county, town and parish councils will lose £947,000 over the next two years. Shrewsbury will lose £146,000 and Bridgnorth £73,000. Shropshire Council only published its plans on Monday afternoon, just a day and a half before the cabinet meets to agree the scheme (or perhaps reject it). There has been no consultation with town and parish councils and no public announcement. The plan is buried in a technical paper slipped out later than the other cabinet papers.

I have written about empty homes in Shropshire before, making the case that we have a worse performance than most other councils. This morning, the Lib Dem group on Shropshire Council is calling for the council’s empty homes policy to be beefed up. We are aiming to make positive and constructive proposals to strengthen Shropshire Council’s Empty Homes Strategy 2014-17. You can read a quick reminder of the facts at the end of this post. In procedural terms, we have “called in” the strategy, which was approved by Portfolio Holder Mal Price on 10 November. That means it will be debated at a special meeting of the Enterprise and Growth Scrutiny Committee at 10am this morning.

I am in tears and really very angry after an abusive attack in the churchyard of St Laurence’s, Ludlow this lunchtime. I was talking to N. He’s the rather eccentric homeless gentleman you’ll see about town, especially in the churchyard. We were chatting about the medieval character of the town. Ludlow’s fairly new to him after he walked here from Oxford. It has taken a while to get a conversation with N going. I’m happy to chat to anyone, but I also have an agenda here. I want to find N help. But you need to be ready for help when you are rough sleeping and we have been talking about that. Beyond this, I can tell you no more other than I will seek help for him as soon as he is ready. This lunchtime, we were having a pleasant chat. We weren’t talking about his situation, just swapping stories on various campaigns and protest marches in our pasts. His experience is very different from mine but we have discovered we share common ground on what we see as destruction of societal and environmental values. We weren’t allowed to finish our conversation. After just a few minutes, we were…

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