Ring the bells. Bang the drums. March the bands. The green space at the bottom of Charlton Rise has been saved! Social housing provider Connexus has told Ludlow Town Council that it will not proceed with its proposal for five bungalows on the green space on Sidney Road at the bottom of Charlton Rise. We must now move to protect this green space and its trees in perpetuity by getting it declared a town green. We should also plant a Norway Maple to replace the one that was felled three years ago.
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East, and the Sidney Road area says everyone in Ludlow should celebrate the news:
“This is brilliant news. No one in Ludlow wanted this scheme. It has already led to the unnecessary felling of very fine Norway Maple. But the development never offered anything for the community on Sidney Road. It never worked for Ludlow.
“Town councillors, unitary councillors and residents worked together from the moment proposals for this development were announced by South Shropshire Housing. We fought against the proposals at two Shropshire Council planning committees but lost when the housing association went to appeal to the planning inspectorate.
“But now Connexus, which took on South Shropshire Housing, has decided it must work with the grain of Ludlow’s community. Not against it.
“This is a new ball game. It’s a brilliant ball game. It’s a great early Christmas present for Ludlow.”
Andy Boddington, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North had threatened to tie himself to the second Norway Maple to prevent it being felled. He says:
“This is a huge relief for everyone. But it is not the end of the matter. Connexus must apply for the planning permission to be cancelled. Then the town council should apply for the green space to be declared a town green. That’s a legal designation that will protect the green forever.
“Connexus are listening to our community. We must work with its team to help it find new sites for affordable homes in Ludlow as well as protecting the Sidney Road green space for future generations.”
The campaign to save the Sidney Road Green began with the unnecessary felling of a tree three years ago, almost to the day. That action was ordered by South Shropshire Housing Group, which claimed that the action was merely to save the residents of Sidney Road the cost of maintain the trees. Six months later, the housing association applied to build seven bungalows on the green. The next month, the remaining trees were protected with a tree protection order. A couple of months later, the number of bungalows was reduced to five after the housing association took into account the constraints of drainage under the site. That application was rejected by the South Planning Committee in July 2017. But a near identical application was submitted by Connexus, which had absorbed the South Shropshire Housing Group. It took a year for that application to get to the planning committee, where it was yet again rejected. Connexus didn’t give up and appealed to the planning inspectorate. Shropshire Council, despite having previously recommended to the planning committee that the planning application be approved, argued the planning inspector should reject the appeal based on a previously unseen planning officer’s report. This was to no avail. In June 2019, a planning inspector approved five bungalows on the site. All seemed lost. But in July 2019, Connexus surprised us all by saying they were considering scrapping the development. Now, it has confirmed that it will not go ahead.
We now need to work with Connexus to identify alternative sites for social housing in the town. We will also be asking it to voluntarily declare the green a town green. Also known as a village green, this is a legal status that will protect the site in perpetuity. And we must replace the felled Norway Maple.