Since February, a Bristol based planning inspector has been examining an appeal for five independent living bungalows on the green space at the bottom of Sidney Road and Charlton Rise. On Thursday, she announced that the appeal had been allowed and gave the scheme planning permission.
The good news is that the scheme is for five affordable homes. The bad news is it will lead to the loss of a fine Norway Maple and much of an important green space. This decision is final and can only be revoked by the high court.
Although we need affordable homes, we also need to preserve the character of our town. This is an important gateway into Ludlow and we should be trying to improve the aesthetics. This bog standard scheme will not achieve that.
The battle to save the green space and its trees began in October 2016 when South Shropshire Housing Group sent in contractors to cut down the two very fine Norway Maples. After a quick intervention, one tree was saved. The housing association claimed it was only trying to cut costs for residents. I said I thought they were preparing the site for development. That proved to be right. The following March, plans for submitted for seven bungalows on the green. Fearing that the second Norway Maple might be felled, Shropshire Council issued tree protection orders for the remaining trees. In June, South Shropshire Housing submitted new plans for five bungalows after a detailed examination of where sewers ran under the site. In August, the South Planning Committee threw the plans out. But, alas, very similar plans were submitted in November. This application took eleven months to get to the planning committee. The result was the same. The application was thrown out again.
At that point, we unitary councillors asked the housing association to preserve the green. That request got nowhere and in February this year, Connexus – which by this point had gobbled up the South Shropshire Housing Group – appealed the refusal to the planning inspectorate. It is the developer’s choice about the method used for the appeal. Connexus decided that it would be decided by written procedure. That’s essentially an exchange of emails (19/02702/REF).
Planning inspector Beverley Wilders was appointed to decide the appeal. Her brief was to examine the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area; whether future occupiers of the proposed dwellings would have satisfactory living conditions having particular regard to privacy and security; and whether the proposed parking and refuse facilities are acceptable having regard to the likely future occupiers of the dwellings.
Connexus and Shropshire Council submitted their cases. Tracey Huffer and I submitted the statements we made to the South Planning Committee. A site visit was carried out earlier this month. The decision was issued on Thursday and published yesterday.
The inspector said found no reason to object to the development. She said:
“A large amount of open space would be retained and the forward building line of the proposed buildings would be broadly in line with nearby development on Sidney Road and Charlton Rise.”
“I am satisfied that the design and appearance of the proposed bungalows adequately reflects and respects surrounding development and that their siting towards the rear of the site ensures that a sufficient amount of open space would remain so as to ensure that the proposal would not be harmful to the character and quality of the area which is one of the main access routes into Ludlow.”
The current informal path across the green will be diverted. The inspector said:
“I am satisfied that future occupiers would not be subject to undue amounts of overlooking from the path or that they would be likely to perceive security issues.”
One of the other concerns was access for bungalows “designed to be occupied by frail and elderly persons.” Access to the proposed parking area and refuse collection point would involve travelling along the proposed path in front of the bungalows but as these are housing association properties, that can be managed. The use of the site for landing of the air ambulance was dismissed due to lack of evidence and the proximity of Gallows Bank. The inspector added:
“The fact that a culvert passes beneath the site does not preclude development above it, subject to appropriate measures being put in place to protect the culvert and to allow sufficient access to it.”
The tree protection order for the Norway Maple is automatically revoked by the planning permission.
There is nothing now to stop this development proceeding unless residents or the town council apply for a judicial review in the high court. That is very unlikely.
Comment from Tracey Huffer and Andy Boddington
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East which includes the development site, says:
“I am saddened and disappointed by this decision. This green space is vital for the area. The inspector is wrong in thinking that the air ambulance can use Gallows Bank as an alternative. The nearby gate to the bank is always locked and there is only a narrow pedestrian access onto the field.
“The Norway Maple that Connexus plans to cut down was paid for by the residents of Sidney Road, who also paid for the tree cut down in 2016. What compensation is the housing association going to pay for removing two beautiful trees that did not belong to it?
“South Shropshire Housing Group (SSHG) ignored our proposed alternative sites for social housing. Those could have left this green area untouched. Since SSHG was absorbed by Connexus, the organisation has become even more remote. It is now no different from any other housing developer.”
Andy Boddington is Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North:
“This is an important gateway into Ludlow. It deserves more than the bog standard design that has been trotted out by the housing association with the support of Shropshire Council and waved through by the planning inspectorate. Government ministers have recently emphasised that good quality design is essential for new developments but that message doesn’t seem to have filtered down to either the council or planning inspectors.”