Council officers have approved a plan for two homes on Friars Walk. This scheme has been controversial from the outset. The town council objected, as did several residents. I objected and three times asked for the scheme to be called in to the South Planning Committee. All requests were refused. I was so angry I complained. I was due to meet council leader Peter Nutting at 9.30am yesterday morning to discuss the matter. That meeting was postponed for a week after the planning committee chair could not attend for perfectly acceptable personal reasons.
Yesterday lunchtime, officers approved the scheme, something they seem to have been determined to do since the beginning of the year. I am furious about this.
I am no longer know what it takes to get a Ludlow planning application called in to be considered by the South Planning Committee. The South Planning Committee goes off to look at some of the most trivial of applications, café seating and a garage conversion for example. We go to see exemplary developments to which almost no one objects. But in Ludlow, we struggle to get applications that cause significant controversy called in to the committee.
The Friars Walk development (16/05602/FUL) cannot be built without significant disruption to residents and St Lawrence’s School. Materials must be moved from Friars Walk across the pedestrian way during a very restricted time frame. Early day deliveries are crucial to all construction sites but the window is just a half-an-hour between 7.30am and 8.00am in the morning. After that, its 10:00am to 11:00am and 14:00pm to 14:30pm. On Saturday, three hours are allowed between 9.00am and midday.
The early morning slot is never going to work. For deliveries to arrive and be transferred to the site in half-an-hour, while allowing access for pedestrians and cyclists, is cloud cuckoo land. Checking in with the site manager, offloading, transferring material to small dumper trucks or similar vehicles and taking it to the site will take more than half-an-hour.
What will happen is that we will see deliveries arriving out of the restricted hours. That then will be a matter for planning enforcement. But with nearly all of Shropshire Council’s planning staff engaged on getting applications through, there are almost no resources left for enforcement. Friars Walk is not a public right of way or part of the highway. It can be closed at will if the landowner agrees. This is a vital pedestrian route across the town linking the town centre and the Fees with Bishop Mascall, where the café and community centre are doing well.
Officers gave approval for this scheme yesterday lunchtime, just hours after I was due to meet the leader of Shropshire Council, chief executive and the chair and vicechair of the South Planning Committee.
This development has been shabbily handled. The developer did not consult with residents or the school, or local councillors. Shropshire Council clearly decided that it would approve the proposals at a very early stage. Representations from democratically elected councillors have since made not one jot of difference.
I am at the end of my tether on planning in Shropshire. It has become a process in which the democratic contributions have become marginalised, while officers call the shots. Shropshire Council’s planning regime certainly doesn’t work for Ludlow.
I will be raising this with Peter Nutting at our rearranged meeting last week.
. According to the planning officer’s report, Friars Walk is not a public right of way and not part of the highway. It is privately owned. I don’t know by whom. That means it can be closed at will. For this development, there is no information about negotiations between the developer and the owner of Friars Walk over access from Friars Garden to the site. This path meets all criteria for a public right of way and we should aim to get that status confirmed.