Shropshire Council has changed the way it deals with planning applications that become long in the tooth before being decided. Last Friday, two applications of significance to Ludlow looked to have been scrapped. That’s not the case.
A planning application for 215 homes squeezed between the A49 and Bromfield Road has been in the planning system for a decade. Shropshire Council has now decided that the developer needs to come back with a fresh proposal. I understand that the developer, Tesni, is not happy with that and wants to keep the latest incarnation of the application live.
It is a similar situation with M&S Food, except it has not been in the planning system very long. The developer, Avenbury, has been told to withdraw the application and put in a new improved application. That is likely to happen with weeks.
For too many years in Shropshire, developers have submitted applications for developments that are half-baked. It can take many months, even years for the developer to bring the application up to scratch and for a decision to be made on approval or refusal.
That consumes a lot of time from planning officers who must deal with any nuance and comments on applications that have no chance of getting to a decision. Developers have used Shropshire Council’s planners as a free resource to do work they should have done in the first place. Other planning authorities don’t allow developers to take advantage in this way and Shropshire Council is at last stepping into line.
The M&S Food Hall application is one of the worst we have seen in Ludlow for a long while. The initial plans submitted by Avenbury Properties ignored preapplication advice from Shropshire planners that the design needed to be improved and the entrance road relocated.
The design was a standard box of the type you can see on any retail estate across the country. It was not in keeping with the historic character of Ludlow and the countryside that surrounds the town.
National Highways have challenged the highways assessment. It says it expects more car traffic than suggested by the developer, especially at peak hours. It is concerned that there are not enough parking spaces and that would lead to parking on the highway.
The design needs to be substantially improved and there needs to be better landscaping to reduce the impact on the site on views from landmarks such as Caynham hillfort. It should be a greener design, with a green roof to help blend the building into the countryside.
This is an opportunity to deliver an exemplary design that Marks and Spencer and Ludlow can be proud of.
Housing developer Tesni first proposed the scheme for 213 homes on a wedge of greenfield land off Bromfield Road between the railway and the A49 in 2013. The plans were rejected by the South Planning Committee twice but were approved by a planning inspector in 2015 after a public inquiry.
The application ran into difficulties over access to the site. After slip roads from the A49 were rejected, a new roundabout was proposed on the A49. That’s an expensive up-front cost for any developer.
There were greater difficulties over pedestrian and cycling access. A controversial footbridge linking the development with Fishmore View was removed from the scheme in 2017 after negotiations by myself.
That left a footbridge over the railway as the only pedestrian access to the site. Tesni could not reach agreement with Network Rail over construction of the footbridge. A new proposal was developed for a pedestrian and cycle path that descended to the banks of the Corve and continued under the railway viaduct and through the Burway Trading Estate to Bromfield Road. This path would have often flooded and met objections from the Environment Agency. The developer now thinks an acceptable scheme for access has now been designed.
Another controversial aspect of the plans, was the proposal to squeeze the social housing in close to the railway, an area polluted with noise and emissions from the A49, Bromfield Road and passing trains.
This was always a less than ideal development. The properties would suffer from road and rail noise 24 hours a day. The houses closest to the A49 and the rail line would have to keep windows closed to block noise and air pollution. Social housing would have been squeezed into the noisiest and most polluted areas.