Next Wednesday, the council’s cabinet is to consider a public consultation on plans for housing and employment development across Shropshire. The plans include a new garden settlement on the outskirts of Bridgnorth and around 8,000 new homes new Shrewsbury. The Shropshire Star has a report. In Ludlow, there is not a great deal of change from existing plans though Ludford will need to provide more land for employment.
The aim is to achieve a delivery rate of around 60 new dwellings a year in Ludlow. That’s rather higher than the recent average of 35 a year. This increase is to play catch up because developments have been slow to get off the ground in Ludlow. Shropshire Council is not happy with this. It says: “The council will require those landowners and developers with sites that form part of the current commitments to act swiftly to bring forward their land to consent for development and to commence.” This is rather wishful thinking.
The town and the surrounding area have an allocation of 1,000 new homes between 2016 and 2036. Of these, 840 are already in the planning system including 137 at Foldgate Lane, 215 off Bromfield Road, 200 south of Rocks Green and 80 east of the Eco Park.
That leaves just 146 homes to plan for. These will be built on “two significant brownfield site releases and further windfall development. It is expected that this development will be designed to respect the historic character of Ludlow using good contemporary design within schemes that provides and appropriate scale and form of landscaping, open space and car parking.”
That promise of design to protect the historic character of Ludlow is important. We have seen too many off the shelf designs for housing in Ludlow. And this statement brings the council squarely into line with new government planning rules published in the summer which prioritise good design.
The plans do not anticipate further housing development in Ludford parish, other than that already allocated. The council says future housing need: “can now be accommodated on brownfield and windfall sites coming forward within Ludlow town. Therefore, the housing expansion into the adjoining parish area can be subject to a period of respite for the foreseeable future.”
However, the council says:
“The council will consider the need to bring forward an outline masterplan for this potential urban extension [in Ludford] under their duty to keep under review matters affecting the proper and effective planning of the county.”
I have said many times that we should develop a masterplan for eventual development between Rocks Green and the Eco Park. That means we could have well planned development. A garden suburb to be proud of. Not a series of blandly designed estates stuck on one after the other. It will be thirty, maybe fifty years before a full suburb is built but we should plan for that now to leave a legacy we can be proud of.
When it comes to employment land, we need a further 4 hectares. Officers are suggesting this should be south of the Eco Park in Ludford parish, extending an existing greenfield allocation from 3.5 hectares to around eight hectares:
“The site is situated within an open aspect in an important landscape close to historic and environmental assets and the development scheme will be expected to respect and conserve these important natural and historic assets.”
New housing cannot, or at least should not, come without better infrastructure. The council lists some of our town’s needs: waste water and sewerage capacity; additional primary and possibly secondary school places; possibly extra medical facilities; highway improvements, including provision of a foot/cycle bridge over the A49; and additional leisure and recreation facilities.
The council doesn’t say how these improvements will be funded. Developers have proved reluctant to fund a footbridge over the A49 at Rocks Green. The only local source of money is the community infrastructure levy paid by all housebuilders in Shropshire but not by employment or retail developers. The money is paid when a housing development commences. I do not know whether there will be enough for a footbridge over the A49 so that might mean a reliance on government grants. Wherever the money comes from, a footbridge over the A49 should eBulletin built quickly to ensure pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Except for the extra employment land south of the Eco Park, this proposal makes little difference to existing plans for Ludlow and Ludford. What concerns me is that we struggle to get housing built in this town. There is a danger that if housing in the pipeline is not actually built, the planning inspectorate will impose more housing in unwanted locations. Just as it has done on Bromfield Road and Foldgate Lane.
These plans do not have a strong enough focus on using brownfield land before consuming green fields. The council must plan in this way because of national legislation and rules. But it must do more to ensure that brownfield land in the middle of Ludlow is brought forward for development.
. The two brownfield sites are the former quarry on Fishmore Road and the Western Power site on The Riddings.
. The revised National Planning Policy Framework published in July gave a strong emphasis to design and that is now backed up by the announcement by the government this weekend of a new commission announced to champion beauty in the built environment.