Shropshire Council must focus on the needs of Shropshire, not its West Midlands neighbours

As Shropshire Council prepares to hold a Cabinet Meeting tomorrow (Wednesday March 20 2019) that will decide the next steps for three big development sites within its Local Plan Review, the Shropshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has submitted a question that will, again, question the Council’s approach to its development plans.

The central focus of CPRE’s current objection is that of the so-called “Strategic Development Sites” being proposed by the Council.  Charles Green, spokesperson for the CPRE, explains:

“Ever since its original publication in January 2017, we have queried major aspects of Shropshire Council’s proposed Local Plan Review.  Time and again we’ve tested the evidence used to justify the Council’s ambition which, at best, is vastly as odds with actual need. 

“Our opposition remains and this week, we’re focusing in particular on the Council’s analysis of the so-called Strategic Development Sites.  Specifically, we call in to question the Council’s belief that there exists a need for Shropshire to court the Black Country local authorities where, apparently, there is insufficient capacity to accommodate all of its own development needs.”

The CPRE’s submission that accompanies its question outlines how The Black Country figures being quoted are being updated and that Shropshire Council is, therefore, premature in referencing them.  Charles Green continues:

“Shropshire Council should not be contemplating the release of Green Belt land for a need (not ours!) that has yet to be tested, particularly when The Black Country is currently engaged in a call for sites.

“Furthermore, Housing Delivery Test figures for the West Midlands, in fact, show that the region as a whole is already at 138% of its delivery requirement over the past three years, whilst Shropshire and its nine neighbouring English Local Authorities stand at 188% delivery. 

“The position of our local planners is in my mind clear: they’re far more committed to courting developers, than really scrutinising the needs of Shropshire’s own people and this shouldn’t be allowed to continue.”

CPRE Shropshire also casts light on a number of additional, yet linked, issues.  Amongst these, the sustainability credentials (or lack of) of Shropshire’s Economic Growth Strategy; the fact that the three quoted ‘strategic’ development sites of Buildwas, Tern Hill Barracks and the Bradford Estate near Junction 3 of the M54 (in the Green Belt), are not so much ‘strategic’ as just ‘large’; the lack of the necessary evidence to release Green Belt land; and Shropshire’s continued flying in the face of ONS population forecasts, to the extent that their plans might see in-migration to Shropshire being four times its current projected level.  Charles Green concludes:

“Whilst CPRE tries to ensure that objections are raised with the backing of considered and justified evidence, Shropshire Council seems prone to “spinning” things.  We understand that these sites are already earmarked in the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Plan and that they will figure at the Midlands Development Conference in May.

“That suggests that any decision made today is simply an exercise in rubber stamping.  That is why, in a public forum, we are again trying to hold Shropshire Council to account.”

CPRE Shropshire’s full question to Cabinet is available on request.

ENDS

Notes: Further information on the Shropshire Council Cabinet Meeting taking place on Wednesday March 20 2019, along with all supporting information can be found by visiting: https://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=3687&Ver=4  

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