Highways England has issued another holding recommendation on granting planning permission for the proposed Sainsbury’s store off the A49 at Rocks Green, Ludlow. The objections from the government highways agency are not major, except for its concern that a barrier proposed is not strong enough to prevent vehicles crashing out of the proposed car park onto the A49.

These objections will mean that Blackfriars Property Group will have its work cut out to begin work before the winter as it had hoped. The earliest the application can be considered by the Southern Planning Committee is 22 September. It might not be ready for that meeting if Highways England’s concerns cannot be satisfied.

The opening of Sainsbury’s, Argos and a petrol filling station is expected before Christmas 2021. That could be delayed if the committee decision is made after September.

Proposed view from the A4117
Current view from the A49

Highways England has been raising technical concerns about the supermarket application since March. On 19 June, the agency sent a holding letter to Shropshire Council recommending the planning application should not be approved for three months while its concerns are being resolved.

The site currently has 730 sq metres of impermeable surface. The planned supermarket will have 12,030 sq metres of hardstanding. That’s a huge increase and the sustainable drainage must be sufficient to prevent excess water flooding the Fishmore area.  

Although it is described as permeable paving, the proposed paving for the car park area will not allow infiltration into the ground. Instead, the rainwater will drain into a perforated pipe which feeds the water to a 535 cubic metre geocellular attenuation tank under the loading yard. A smaller attenuation tank will store surface water from the petrol filling station. From the tanks, water is released at a controlled rate into the existing surface water sewer. It eventually flows into Fishmore Brook.

This discharge is one of Highways England concerns.

Those concerns seem legal and almost pedantic. It says the permission of landowners is needed for a flow of water into Fishmore Brook because they have riparian rights. I can’t see what this has to do with Highways England. A matter that does concern the agency is that the water flows under the A49 in a culvert. Highways England thinks it owns the culvert but says it doesn’t know for sure. It is asking Blackfriars Property Group to confirm the ownership. It is extraordinary that a government agency doesn’t know whether it owns a structure passing under the strategic road network.

I don’t pretend to understand the details of the drainage report for this development. The report refers to water being surcharged from the attenuation tanks and nodes in the drainage network during “critical storms”.  This needs expert assessment to ensure the plans do not increase the risk of flooding at the Fishmore culvert between Summerfields and Mayfield and on Lower Corve Street during these critical storms. That has not as far as I can see been done.

Highways England is also concerned about noise impacts. In the latest plans, the service yard has been moved from behind the store to the west side, adjacent to the A49. Highways England says this change of location will have noise impact. It asks whether the developer has assessed this and considered any mitigation measures required. It also wants information and justification for the three metre high acoustic barrier separating the site from Rocks Green Crescent. It asks why there is no plan for an acoustic barrier along the A49. It suggests an acoustic barrier could be constructed on top of the concrete retaining wall which will be built around the site to ensure that the A49 embankment remains stable.

This a bizarre request from Highways England. The previous plans proposed sandwiching the service yard between the store and Rocks Green Crescent. The current proposals reduce the potential disturbance of residents from turning delivery vehicles. Any noise from the new location for the service yard is likely to be drowned out by A49 traffic. The Rocks Green Crescent acoustic barrier is not on the strategic road network so it is not clear why Highways England is interested in it.

While the service yard is set back from the A49 by 11 metres, car parking spaces are as close as 8 metres. The developer plans a 0.5 metre high timber retaining wall and bump rail to prevent wayward cars crashing onto the A49. This is known as a Vehicle Restraint System (VRS). Highways England wants more details about this and warns that it believes a timber VRS will not comply with national standards.

This strikes me as the most significant objection. And any changes to create a more robust barrier could change the view of the site from the Rocks Green roundabout. This view is already a great concern to me and I’ll write more on it in a subsequent article.

Comments on the application can be made at 20/00840/REM.

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