This application has long been expected. Western Power Distribution (WPD) has operated from an unsuitable location in The Riddings, Sandpits for decades. Its 1960s depot is behind a new row of housing built on the site of the former tax office. WPD maintenance trucks must travel along St Margaret Road and Parys Road to leave the depot. Worse, they often travel past Ludlow Infants School when children are arriving or leaving.
Now the company is applying to move to a plot between the Eco Park park and ride and Western Power Distribution’s substation on Squirrel Lane. This is a good move. Vehicle access will be through the Eco Park spine road. That’s also a good move.
The site between the Eco Park and Sheet Village has long been allocated for a mixed use development – part housing and part employment. This was recognised in the approval of an outline planning application in 2014 for 80 homes and an employment area (14/01012/OUT).
The detailed plans for housing were submitted in June (more on the details later). Now WPD has applied for a new depot outside the Ludlow A49 bypass (19/03061/FUL). There has been a change of heart by Shropshire Council planning officers who originally wanted the new depot to be accessed through the planned housing estate. That would have been unsuitable and potentially dangerous access. WPD will now use the Eco Park spine road which is designed for bus and business traffic.
“The new combined facility will include a distribution centre and office accommodation, including conference rooms and archive stores together with ancillary staff welfare accommodation. Most of these spaces are devoted to engineering, servicing and distribution.”
One of the other reasons for moving is to accommodate the current level of WPD staff. The 88 strong WPD workforce staff has seventeen office staff, 57 staff working in the field on network maintenance and fourteen technical engineers that work both in the field and in the office. WPD is training four apprentices.
There will be more than 100 truck and car parking spaces. Twenty-five electric vehicle chargers will be installed “to enable the procurement of electric vehicles when suitable commercial models become available.” That sounds like no charging points for workers’ cars and I hope that can be changed.
With the better access to the new depot, it is expected that the current two supplies deliveries each week using a 26 tonne HGV will be replaced by a single delivery with a 40 tonne vehicle. WPD says it will continue “home to site” working, a practice that has proved controversial because its vehicles are often parked on narrow Ludlow streets overnight and at weekends.
We are expecting the existing WPD depot in Sandpits to be sold for housing. The site should be redeveloped for affordable housing of the quality and style that has been built on the old tax office site that fronts the WPD depot.
WPD also owns a strip of land between the proposed new depot and the Eco Park pond by the NHS owned site. This looks like it is being reserved for future employment land but it would be great if this was designated as a wildlife area with native trees. This would promote wildlife in an area deficient in biodiversity.