Tuesday is a big day for Ludlow. I am expecting a decision on whether a Sainsbury’s and Argos can be built at Rocks Green shortly after 3pm. That decision, providing councillors approve the scheme, will conclude six years of debate. I am expecting a vote in favour of the scheme but planning decisions can be unpredictable. Neither Viv Parry or I will be voting at the committee for different reasons.
The Southern Planning Committee will meet at 2pm on Microsoft Teams. Members of the public are invited to attend but cannot speak during the meeting under current temporary planning committee rules. To comply with current planning rules, I have submitted my statement to the committee in advance. You can read that below.
Temporary planning rules in Shropshire require councillors to submit statements in advance in some circumstance. That includes the councillors for the Shropshire Council ward the application site lies in – in this case Viv Parry. Also, councillors who feel they are pre-determined or cannot speak for any other reason. In my case, I have been in close and cordial discussions with Blackfriars Developments for around two years. In such circumstances, it is advisable for members to make a statement to the planning committee and withdraw from the table. These days that means turning off the webcam and microphone.
This unfortunately means that no one from Ludlow will have a vote on this application, as Viv cannot vote because she is the ward member. That’s not ideal but planning decisions need to be squeaky clean and to be seen to be squeaky clean.
Sainsbury’s is the second application on the agenda. That means I can’t predict what the time the decision will be made. But I expect councillors to reach a view before 3.30pm.
20/00840/REM: Statement from Councillor Andy Boddington to Southern Planning Committee on 22 September 2020
I have chosen to submit a statement rather than speaking on this application. Along with Councillor Vivienne Parry, I have been in discussions with the developer for around two years about the details of the scheme. I forfeit my vote in these circumstances.
I am not expecting committee members to reject this scheme. It was approved in principle after two lengthy and anguished discussions in this committee in 2017. But if this scheme is approved, we will be approving a scheme we might have been asked to vote on ten or twenty years ago.
This development could have been built in the 1960s or 70s for all the regard it has to active travel. It is not a 21st century development. It is not a development that Sainsbury’s or Ludlow can be proud of.
This is a car first development. The officer report states:
“It is not a requirement of the outline planning permission that a bus service be provided into the site, or that bus laybys be provided as part of the development and is not one which can be introduced at the reserved matters stage.”
As a committee, we weren’t told that back in 2017 and did not receive officer advice on buses. That has left us with a legacy of one of the most unsustainable developments to be built in Shropshire for many years.
Motorists will be able to drive up to the front door of this supermarket to pick up and drop off. But more than a quarter of households in Ludlow do not have access to a car.
How do they get to the store?
There is no convenient bus stop for this site now or planned. People who arrive on foot or by bus will be required to negotiate an eight-step flight of stairs from Duncow Road. No access ramp is provided. There is no provision for people with mobility issues to gain access the site other than by car. It has just four cycle toast racks.
This development is discriminatory as it assumes everyone arrives by car. It is designed around the car. It worships the car. It is so twentieth century.
I am concerned also about the landscape view from the A49. The Rocks Green roundabout is current a soft entry to Ludlow. It will be urbanised in a way that shows no respect to Ludlow, its history and the soft, green landscapes that surround it. This development could be anywhere but here.
But this supermarket will be here. I believe that we at Shropshire Council have failed in not getting a better scheme.
We have declared a climate emergency. This supermarket application ticks several boxes on protecting the environment but this scheme is decades out of date.
I am no longer objecting to a supermarket or other retail facility at Rocks Green. I just want us to do something that is outstanding for Ludlow. There is nothing outstanding about this development. Ludlow and Shropshire deserve a far better scheme.
I hope that the committee can persuade the developer to produce something better for one of the most historic towns in the country.