Shropshire Council today said that the biodigester facility on Coder Road could reopen but not for a while. The driver is the government’s resources and recycling strategy which, though the forthcoming Environment Bill is expected to insist that councils collect food waste separately from garden waste. If new life is breathed into the biodigester it will be a back to the future moment for Ludlow, when once again we will have food waste caddies and separate collection.

Ludlow companies are struggling to find space to expand. It is vital that the proposed employment site south of Sheet Road opposite the Eco Park is prepared for use as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Shropshire Council, which is investing £1M in a solar farm in Oswestry to supply a packaging business, even though there will only be a minimal financial return to the council, doesn’t seem prepared to buy the land and get development underway.

Q1. Ludlow Biodigester site

My question. What plans does Shropshire Council have for the former biodigester site and the adjacent former household recycling centre on Coder Road?

Shropshire Council answer. The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs have proposed legislation through the Environment Bill which if made in to law would require the council to collect food waste separately to green waste as the Council currently does.  Anaerobic Digestion within the county would provide the most cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to such a direction. As the Ludlow biodigester site already has the necessary planning and other requisite consents the council seeks to retain the potential to resurrect such activity at Coder Road until legislation is confirmed next year.

My  reaction. It is good news that the Ludlow Biodigester could be brought back into use after more than a decade without it processing food waste. It has been known for two years that the forthcoming national resources and waste strategy is likely to require food waste to be processed separately from garden waste. I am disappointed that the council did not make this clear earlier to companies interested in the Coder Road site to enable them to prioritise other sites. If food waste is collected separately, it should be in electric vehicles to reduce pollution and the carbon costs of collection.

Q2. Employment land south of Sheet Road

My question. What plans does the council have to ensure that the greenfield employment site south of Sheet Road (LUD052) is brought forward to accommodate company expansion and new businesses at the earliest opportunity?

Shropshire Council response. Land is available that has been allocated in the adopted SAMDev Plan at Sheet Road, opposite the Ludlow Eco Park, with a further 5 hectares of employment land included in the current Local Plan review that is due to be submitted to examination shortly. The issue with the site is that the land is undeveloped / serviced at present so isn’t in a position for commercial units to be built on it immediately. Officers have previously engaged with the land owner, via their commercial agents back in late 2019/early 2020 to examine the potential to purchase part of the site as part of the business parks programme that would also have drawn down funds via European funding (ERDF). Unfortunately, following engagement with their agent, we were not able to agree on a deal for the purchase of the land, which would have met the requirements of the European funding and allowed us to scope out a suitable commercial development programme for the site. It is however the intention of the team to reengage with the land owners through their agent to review their current plans and the potential to marry up interest to support in delivery of new commercial space that could be delivered by the private sector.

My  reaction. This site is urgently needed to attract new businesses to Ludlow and to enable existing businesses to expand. It is disappointing that Ludlow has missed out on European funding. Why was this site put into the local plan if the landowner is not prepared to bring it forward in a timely fashion? Shropshire Council has just agreed to invest £1 million in a solar farm on the outskirts of Oswestry to supply local businesses, even though it will barely make a profit. Why can’t it invest a similar amount in an employment site in Ludlow?

Q3. Ludlow regeneration

My question. Proposals for regeneration of the fringes of Ludlow centre were discussed with former council leader Peter Nutting and officers on a walking tour of Ludlow in May 2018. What has happened since that meeting to examine options for brownfield regeneration in Ludlow? We need redevelopment of brownfield sites before we start concreting over greenfield sites on the edge of town.

Shropshire Council answer. Whilst members of the Business Growth team were not directly involved in discussions or in attendance at this walking tour, I would note the response to question two covers activity that has been undertaken to examine the potential for the development of commercial space in Ludlow.

My reaction. It is time that Shropshire Council learnt to join up its operations. The leader, deputy leader, head of housing, commercial director and portfolio holder for housing attended that May 2018 meeting. Surely some of them will have spoken to the Business Growth team and discussed options? The council seems more interested in developing greenfield sites that regenerating edge of centre brownfield sites. That is the wrong approach and will lead to yet more sprawl around Ludlow.

Q4. Local Economic Growth Strategy (LEGS).

My question. The Ludlow LEGS identifies Ludlow and its surrounding area as “a unique opportunity for businesses looking to invest and grow.” That is correct. But it also states, “the micro economy of Ludlow is low paid/low skill”. That is incorrect. What plans does the council have to update the “final draft” of the Ludlow LEGS?

Shropshire Council answer. The LEGS are going to be updated as part of the economic recovery and strategy update for 2022.

My reaction. Local Economic Growth Strategies (LEGS) have real potential. But the current document for Ludlow is largely based on anecdotal comment from a two-hour seminar with councillors and a few business people and officer opinion. We need a Ludlow growth strategy that is based on hard evidence. That means surveying existing businesses to find out their needs and looking how we can attract new businesses. There is a great opportunity right now as most of Ludlow will be on ultrafast broadband within six months.

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