Is the biggest news in town the opening of Sainsbury’s on 30 November? Or is it the arrival of Greggs on King Street? Or the current construction of 400 new houses around the town with a few hundred more to come before the decade is out?
As everyone can see, out town is changing. After a couple of decades during there has been little expansion to our town, development is going ahead with gusto. The developments bring benefits including more retail and much needed new housing but will also increase the pressure on our roads and the increase strain on services. Yet, we have no plans for how to manage this over the next few decades.
Will these developments also change the character of our town? Or will we welcome absorb the new developments, the new people and new shops?
Few towns can resist change. That includes Ludlow.
We are a working town with a wide variety of businesses, including a strong engineering economy. We are also a tourist town. Our experience since the relaxation of pandemic restrictions is that our visitor economy remains healthy. Both economies will benefit from Ludlow becoming one of the first rural Gigabyte Towns early next year. Most properties will have access to internet speeds of up to 30Gb, perhaps more. The upgrade will attract more home workers, as well as benefiting families that need several simultaneous streams for parents working, children doing schoolwork, the entire household watching movies and playing games. The one thing we are short of is employment space. Land has been allocated east of the bypass south of the Eco Park but there is no sign that the site owner is prepared to bring this forward or that Shropshire Council is interested in helping get the site underway.
People need homes to live in, to upsize and downsize. In Ludlow, we have a high demand for affordable homes – we are not building enough of those. After years of very little change and growth, housing is being built at Rocks Green, Sheet Road, Foldgate Lane and Fishmore Road. There is no new housing planned beyond the current commitment of around 1,000 homes from 2009 to 2035. That will lead to a population increase from around 10,300 to around 12,500 (20%). At this point we are about halfway to the target. However, current planning rules are strong at stating where development can go, but outside protected landscapes, they are weak at saying where development can’t go. That could mean we could see more development towards the latter half of the decade. The current Shropshire local plan is very weak about where this should go. There have been bids to get land designated from the football stadium towards Bromfield and south of Ludford village. Neither are suitable on traffic grounds alone. The most sustainable location for expansion is east of the A49 bypass but Shropshire Council has been reluctant to plan for that. That could mean that, by 2050 or 2060, we have a sprawling development with lacking local services.
The expectation is that health services will expand as the population expands. More patients will bring more money to GP practices. Nevertheless, with more than an extra 1,000 patients expected over the next decade, with greater demand placed on GPs as more health services are devolved to primary care, we must ensure that we have sufficient health facilities in the town. We already have two GP surgeries that might not have enough space for patients within a decade, probably sooner, and a community hospital that is half empty. The Clinical Commissioning Group is already looking at a health hub for Shrewsbury and there is speculation that this model might be rolled out across the county.
On current plans, our primary schools have sufficient capacity . There is no expectation that secondary provision will be exceeded as students have options in Ludlow, Hereford and Shrewsbury.
People need places to shop without having to drive 30 miles or hop on a train or bus. Sainsbury’s will change supermarket shopping in our town. It will be a different retailer with more space. It will have an Argos point where people can order goods to be delivered and collect them. There will also be a petrol filling station.
One of the ideas behind out of town supermarkets (a very 1970s idea) is that they are easier to access by car. There has been a technical assessment of the traffic impact of the new homes at Rocks Green and the supermarket on the A4117 / A49 Rocks Green. This shows the extra traffic can be accommodated. Despite this study, late Friday afternoons and on Saturday mornings could well clog up this important junction with traffic backing up as it tries to get in and out of the supermarket car park. The assessment does not examine how traffic will get out of Dun Cow Road onto the A4117 via a T-junction. Traffic will hurtle towards this junction from the Clee direction at 40mph. This should have been reduced to 30mph but Shropshire Council rejected any reduction in speed limit telling the Southern Planning Committee that that would require police permission. In a later scrutiny committee, the police made clear that they had no veto. I am sure that we could have persuaded Pickstock Homes to pay for the new signs and a Traffic Regulation Order to reduce speed. But Shropshire Council doesn’t think this way. It does not like to restrict traffic speed or prioritise active travel when making planning decisions.
Shropshire Council has also not thought about how the supermarket will affect bus routes. Currently, Rocks Green is only served by one bus an hour. There will not be bus stop or shelter as the scheme is designed around cars. Planners, including the Southern Planning Committee, ignored my request for bus facilities.
In other news, the former PizzaExpress has gained permission for conversion to a pub. Joules has moved into the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop. Greggs has applied to convert the former Joules, was Shoe Zone, into an outlet that will compete with Subway for quick grab sarnies and, of course, sausage rolls.
Many changes to Ludlow are happening now. There will be many more over the next few decades. The biggest problem we face is that we don’t plan for our town’s future. We just let it happen.
 Shropshire Council is forecasting the following numbers of pupils for 2023: St Laurence 222, Ludlow Infant 175 and Ludlow Junior 251. These figures mean that, when all primary provision is taken into account, there will be 72 unfilled primary school places in the town in 2023. Allowing for an extra 150 homes to meet Ludlow’s target, there will an extra 23 primary age pupils (using a pupil yield factor of 15.35 primary pupils per 100 houses). This means that there will be around 49 unfilled primary school places through to 2036. However, schools may need investment to create sufficient flexible space and facilities.