I have been to some odd meetings in my time but this was one of the oddest. Last night, unitary, town and parish councillors met with a phalanx of Shropshire Council officers to debate infrastructure priorities for the Ludlow area. But the meeting proved to be more like a crowdfunded proofreading than a structured discussion about the future of this area of the county.

Discussion of the most controversial infrastructure proposals, combining both GP surgeries and community health services on a single site, was blocked by the chair.

The first meeting on the forthcoming Place Plan for the Ludlow area was held last night. The plan will set out the infrastructure priorities for the next several years. It is part of a new approach by Shropshire Council. It comes shortly after cabinet member Gwilym Butler argued that market towns like Ludlow don’t need an infrastructure fund because money will come through the Place Plan. This money will not get anywhere near meeting our needs.

Councillor Butler chaired the meeting last night. It is a shame that the county’s Local Democracy Reporter was not there to provide a detailed record but the meeting was private.

It was clear from the outset that many of the nine representatives from Shropshire Council didn’t know their Ludfords from their Ludlows, or their Brimfields from their Bromfields. Some had to read prepared material from their mobile phones. They could have been anywhere.

Only councillor’s were invited to this meeting. Shropshire Council threw huge resources at it. Directors of schools, planning, economy and roads were there. Four other officers. And a cabinet member. I wonder how much that cost.

Most of the night was a very expensive proofreading exercise of a poorly informed first draft of the plan. I sent in corrections earlier in the week after a conference call with a couple of directors. Many of my amendments were accepted, including removing the need for Ludlow to spending money on upgrading a sewerage works on Oswestry.

But the draft Place Plan was still flawed. That meant that most of the meeting was concerned with correcting details. Many of the issues were several years old with the chair constantly asking whether the facts were right and the issue still current. We struggled to understand some of the issues, including references to the non-existent cycleway from Ludlow to Brimfield and to Shuts and Passages. There was no strategic discussion at all.

All this could have been achieved by email. There was nothing confidential discussed. The public could have been allowed into the meeting under the usual rules for a “meeting held in public”.

Instead, Shropshire Council fielded nine people, including four directors, in what was probably the most expensive proofreading exercise in our county’s history.

There was useful work in reordering priorities. Every parish had different needs. My view is that the two biggest priorities are improving the park and ride and building a footbridge over the A49.

The headline issue was the statement that our two GP surgeries and community health services should relocate to one site. This seemed to have come from nowhere. None of the GPs knew about this.

Health campaigners have suggested on BBC Radio Shropshire that this is a plot to centralise all services at the Helena Lane site, freeing up valuable sites at Portcullis, Station Drive and Ludlow Community Hospital.

We didn’t get to discuss this.

Councillor Butler made it very clear that reorganisation of health services was not a matter for elected representatives. It was a matter for Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group only and it could not be discussed at the meeting.

Shropshire Council needs to urgently rethink its approach to Place Plans. The development of infrastructure priorities should be an open and democratic process. Not the inefficient and secretive process we saw last night.

5 thought on “Disappointing meeting on Ludlow infrastructure ignores health question”
  1. This is worrying. On the bright side, all we need now is a radical change of representative government (in fact, government that *is* at all representative), both at county, and national, level.

  2. Something I’m missing – in a town with such sparse bus services, shouldn’t the GP services be widely spaced apart, so that people whose mobility for various reasons makes it hard to reach one surgery can register with another?

  3. The centralisation of doctors surgeries, for those with short memories, was planned, land bought and designs done and in public view courtesy of our MP in conjunction with other authorities.
    Subsequently stabbed in the back by his Cameron led colleagues this did not happen. So the question begs “why is this conveniently forgotten now”. The austerity obsession of Osbourne and Hammond (which has not worked in any other country – quite the opposite in fact) has led to less funding thus the health authorities had to scrap the plan. Not to do with health but the self funding millionaires in Whitehall deciding whilst they have money to pay for healthcare that we should not.

    Anyway, enough of my ranting. The lack of organisation should not be allowed, if you were in a private company explaining the money spent on a meeting, an up to date agenda with key points would have been circulated, cost jusitifaction for the meeting and a great deal of valid action points derived from it passed to all and sundry (as it is our money / future they are discussing).
    Personally no meeting should be closed door – they don;t allow it in the USA under freedom of information – time we got with the program and followed suit. I my local city when I resided there they streamed meetings online (cost nothing with for example facebook) then would know what they discuss and have a stake in our own future….

    Come on council…what have you got to fear?

    your electorate and funders?????
    Thankyou for the article Bodders…

  4. Over my 40 odd years living in Ludlow I have grown accustomed to the reprise ‘ Shropshire Councillors don’t know anything much about Ludlow’. Sounds as tho nothing much changes.
    Almost worth suggesting ‘ come back SDDC, all is forgiven!’

  5. A worse process than I had suspected. There are two previous Ludlow Place Plans available on line (or there were).
    If each line in the Place Plan was annotated with the date introduced and progress since the last edition that would be far more constructive. You could then start to see the real barriers to implementation. You could then also track lines that quietly disappeared in successive editions.
    Perhaps this should be done before the next draft is considered.
    BTW, this doesn’t make it a plan. A plan has actions, timescales and resources (including £) properly identified. This is really a Place Unicorn , as this seems to be the current idiom.

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