Why are these homes empty asks Tracey Huffer?

Why are these homes empty asks Tracey Huffer?

Nine homes remain empty in a new development off Cold West Drive. The four-bedroom homes have been empty since August 2019 and there is no sign of them being sold and occupied any time soon.

Tracey Huffer Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East said:

“I am utterly appalled that we have had nine new homes in Ludlow standing empty for nearly three years. There have been extraordinary delays at Shropshire Council and I don’t know why the council has not taken up the offer of an indemnity in case of a claim by any owner of the small strip of land which is holding up selling the houses. The houses are ready for sale. People want to buy them. One potential buyer has already had to pull out losing their deposit.

“This is a disgrace when we have a housing shortage of all types in Ludlow.”

Development of this site has long been troubled. The site was originally acquired for the A49 bypass and sold off when it was no longer needed.

The original planning permission in 2001 was for five dwellings. In 2005, approval was granted for ten dwellings with the detailed planning permission signed off in 2008. In 2011, as that planning permission was about to lapse, new permission was sought with amended design for the houses. That permission lapsed in in 2014. Another application was submitted at the beginning of 2015, which was approved by the end of the year. Building work got underway in 2016 and was completed in August 2019. During building, there were concerns about the height of the gabions supporting some of the houses above the A49 embankment and the noise levels the occupiers will experience from the A49. The noise has been mitigated with a 1.8m high close boarded fence around the gardens.

At the request of councillors, a footpath was created through the development with the intention that this would connect Parys Road with Rocks Green and Sainsbury’s, and would by adopted as a right of way.

Existing and proposed right of way

After the developer Benson Land & Marine Ltd went into administration, management of the assets passed to administrator Moorfields in March 2018. The houses were complete by August 2019 and were marketed by a local agent, Andrew Grant.

There are, however, outstanding problems with the site and the houses have been withdrawn from the market.

The access road to the houses crosses a bridleway. The administrator considered applying for an order to stop up the bridleway but Shropshire Council advised that it would not accept that. A stopping up order wasn’t needed as the bridleway ends at the access road and continues as a footpath down to the A49 dual carriageway.

More significantly, a 5m stretch of the bridleway at the point which the access road crosses the bridleway is currently unregistered land. No one knows who owns it – if anyone. Because of this Shropshire Council has refused to adopt the access road.

Adding to the problem is the glacial pace of Shropshire Council’s responses. The administrator told councillors in November 2020 the council has been “extremely slow to engage with us on occasions”. The administrator was keen to complete sales before the then stamp tax duty holiday expired (then 31 March 2021, later extended to 30 June 2021).

Despite raising the problems with senior officers, no progress had been made by November 2020. No progress has been made since. This is despite the administrators guaranteeing to provide an indemnity policy which will protect the council in the highly unlikely event a third party was able to establish ownership of the small strip of land at a future date, which is standard practice in a situation like this. In a conversation with the then head of planning Ian Kilby at the time we agreed this was the best option.

But nothing happened. This is not unusual in Shropshire Council planning matters. We councillors are used to huge delays on highways and highway planning matters. Delays are also frequent in planning for economic developments, Flowfit and a plan for an entrepreneurial centre at Great Sutton Farm are just two recent examples. Shropshire Council seems to have no system for flagging and prioritising decisions in planning and highways or grappling with decisions that are lagging.

Now the houses remain empty and there is no sign of progress.

 

One thought on “Why are these homes empty asks Tracey Huffer?

  1. There was actually 8 of us who reserved these properties and had to fork out for the solicitor fees. Also the properties were originally put up for sale in 2019 but then removed from sale sometime later and then relisted again in August 2020 but Andrew Grant would never disclose why they were removed from sale.

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