It’s expected to be the final decision. After more than six years of wrangling and discussion, plans for a Sainsbury’s supermarket are expected to be approved by the Southern Planning Committee on 22 September. There are still some details to be resolved but there are no fundamental planning reasons for rejecting the scheme.
But to me the scheme is not as good as it might be. Bus passengers are treated as second class customers by the developers and planning officers alike. What they long for is cars, cars, cars. This application pays no more than lip service to the climate emergency. A handful of EV charging points. A lower profile to reduce space heating. The application will also urbanise the Rocks Green roundabout and will be a poor gateway for one of the country’s most historic towns.
But this development will go ahead and, love it or hate it, and we will have to live with it for decades to come.
Outline planning permission for the supermarket was granted in February 2017. The lead retailer then was Lidl and the councillor who proposed approval spoke of providing “something for the ordinary people” of Ludlow. In 2019, we heard whispers that Lidl had withdrawn and Marks and Spencer was planning to build a food store. But that scheme never saw the light of day. Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s came to the rescue of the project. This is the scheme that will be decided in just over a week’s time. Sainsbury’s intends getting its contractors on the site by the end of this year with the aim of opening the store and petrol filling station before Christmas 2021.
This scheme will be a mixed blessing for the town. It will, the developer claims, create 150 jobs for the town. There is no information on whether these will be full time jobs or on how many jobs will be lost in the town centre as trade is diverted to Rocks Green. The original proposals for this site boasted 210 new jobs but admitted the loss of nearly 80 jobs once the supermarket doors had opened. That count of job losses did not include supply chain jobs, such as those that supply our local butchers and greengrocers.
The design of the scheme is contemporary. It is fairly low set with glass across the front with timber cladding. There is nothing wrong with the concept but it could be anywhere. There has been no acknowledgement of local styles and landscapes. It looks like it has been plucked off a shelf of Sainsbury’s standard designs.
Highways England maintains its objections to this scheme but these will no doubt be resolved by haggling and are not likely to be a reasons for blocking the scheme. One of the agency’s main concerns is that cars driving into the parking spaces might roll onto the A49 or A4117 embankment. Another is that surface water is to be discharged down Fishmore Brook. Officers and legals are trying to negotiate a form of wording in the planning permission that will ensure that these matters are dealt with by conditions attached to the granting of planning permission rather than resolved beforehand.
Shropshire Council’s ecology team has been critical of the development. The team has yet to submit its final comments but it has previously said that the site lies on an environmental corridor and the proposals disrupt the corridor. The council’s tree team has been equally critical. It says the proposed tree planting is unlikely to be sustainable and adds:
“The introduction of a boundary wall and removal of the majority of tree planting along the south facings of the site mean that it will be highly prominent in the landscape as seen from the A49 at the gateway to Ludlow.”
Planning officers say these objections do not amount to reasons for refusing the plans. They hope to hear from the ecologists before the planning meeting.
I have no doubt that this application will be approved at the Southern Planning Committee on 22 September. But I think the scheme is not as good as it could have been.
I also worry about the longer impact of the scheme on our town and on the wider environment.
I’ll be writing more about this application during the next week. At the weekend, I’ll publish the statement that I will make to the planning committee on 22 September.