It could not be better news on a cold winter’s morning with heavy rain forecast for tomorrow. But before you hibernate under a duvet, you might wish to celebrate the saving of the meadow on Castle View Terrace. A planning inspector has thrown out an appeal against Shropshire Council’s refusal of planning permission for six homes in December 2020.
Residents mounted a strong and successful campaign against the Shropshire Homes scheme. They took professional advice and weathered the stress that many residents feel when unwanted and unwarranted development is proposed on their doorstep. The planning inspector noted the “extensive and well-thought-through comments” they submitted to the appeal. I take my hat off to the campaigners.
This scheme should never have been proposed. Shropshire Homes should now do the decent thing and transfer the land to the local community at a minimal cost to allow the meadow to be brought into community use.
In his appeal judgement, planning inspector Gareth W Thomas said the main issues to be considered were whether the development would comply with local and national policies that control the location and rate of development and whether the development of site would prejudice the Council’s approach to protecting open space in the interests of the wellbeing of its local community.
He said the site lies within the development boundary for Ludlow and although it is not allocated for development, it could be acceptable for development as a windfall site. However, the site has not been put forward by Shropshire Homes in the forthcoming local plan, which is being examined by the planning inspectorate. And Shropshire Homes did not provide any local evidence to explain why the mix and type of housing proposed would be acceptable or that this was a result of genuine community consultation and involvement.
The current local plan, SAMDev, proposed a guideline for around 875 new homes in Ludlow between 2006 and 2026 (Policy S10). The inspector notes that 515 dwellings have been completed and, as of March 2021, there were 761 additional dwellings with permission. The agent for Shropshire Homes, Berrys, had tried to argue that these additional homes were ‘committed but not delivered’. (That was somewhat bizarre as new homes are going up all over Ludlow at the moment.) The inspector noted that current commitments meant that the SAMDev guideline has been:
“Exceeded to a significant extent [and] there appears to be a strong prospect of continued delivery to a point where the residential development guideline… will be exceeded significantly at 2026… I am satisfied that the housing requirements of Policy S10 will be exceeded during the plan period by a significant amount.”
Critical to the inspector’s decision was his agreement that Shropshire Council has a five-year land supply, a critical test under national planning rules. We have not suffered the fate of Medway in Kent, which has had 800 homes imposed on it by a planning inspector because it lacks sufficient land supply.
One of the reasons that Shropshire Council’s planners turned down Shropshire Homes’ proposal was the loss of open space. In its submission to the planning appeal, Berrys, argued:
“The Council’s flawed reasons for refusal inaccurately describes the site as, “existing open space available to existing residents”. This is factually incorrect as the site is private land with no public access apart from the public right of way on a narrow two metre wide strip… The proposals will increase (not reduce) the amount of public open space available to residents, from none at present to a generous area of public open space.”
The inspector disagreed with this, siding with Shropshire Council:
“I would agree with the Council that whether an area of open space is public or private is immaterial in terms of how it is viewed by a local community and until the appellants acquired the site, from representations received from local people, it appears that the land has been used informally by the community for recreation for a long period of time…”
“Although the land has been used for grazing, the appeal site contributes positively to the amenity of the area by providing greenery and a break in the otherwise built-up area. Furthermore, the open nature of the site allows for extensive and attractive views across the town and the Teme Valley, to the Welsh Marches foothills beyond, providing a visual connection from this part of the town to the countryside… The site provides one of the few green, open and meaningful spaces in the immediate locality.”
The inspector says the view towards the castle and Mortimer Forest should be protected:
“The two-storey [Castle View Terrace] development would affect views across the valley from the houses opposite. However, when viewed from the street, the proposal would result in the loss of much of the currently open aspect and associated amenity value of the site, resulting in harm to the character and environmental quality of the area. It would also impede views from the [public right of way] of the town and countryside and Ludlow Castle…”
“It is clear that the site does have recreational value for, and is much valued by, the local community. This has certainly been demonstrated through the extensive and well-thought-through comments received in relation to the application and appeal.”
The inspector noted that the steep gradients on the replacement open space proposed by Shropshire Homes would significantly limit informal recreational use.
The inspector concluded that the proposal for six homes breached Shropshire planning policy by exceeding the housing guidelines and destroying open space for no great benefit to the economy and community.
I cannot see any grounds for a judicial review of the planning inspector’s decision. He rightly rejected heritage arguments, gave support to preserving the view and rejected the scheme because it conflicts with local housing growth and open space polices. It was a well-balanced and reasoned decision.
Shropshire Homes should now engage with residents and transfer the land the local community. The price that reflects the reality that this once lovely meadow is unlikely to get planning permission for any housing or other significant development. The land should be preserved in perpetuity by registering it as a town green.