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To: Shropshire Planning Department
Planning Policy Team,
Shrewsbury SY2 6ND
To the Planning Policy Team
At last nights meeting, I asked the following question:
When Snatchfields was last considered by Shropshire Council for housing during the SAMDEV process, it was deleted from the Preferred Options and not included in the final SAMDEV Plan, for the following reasons:
loss of green space;
impact on the AONB;
insufficient existing infrastructure;
loss of footpaths;
negative impact on tourism;
walking distance to the schools, town centre and main employment area;
access to the town centre being hindered by need to cross the A49;
significant impact on the local highway network;
unacceptable pedestrian and cycle access; and
a high to medium landscape and visual sensitivity
It was concluded that the area has very limited capacity for housing, as this would fill the green wedge which is a major positive feature on this edge of the settlement, and the allocation of the site for housing did not have community support.
So, why have these factors been ignored; and what has changed to allow Snatchfields to become a Preferred Site?
Your answer that there is a need for more housing in Church Stretton and this is now the best site available, could only be acceptable if all of the above factors are eliminated or mitigated solely at the developer’s expense using the Community Infrastructure Levy.
However, most of these factors cannot be eliminated or mitigated by throwing money at them because they have an intrinsic value. The loss of green space, adverse impact on the AONB, negative impact on tourism, filling in the green wedge which is a major positive feature on this edge of the settlement, and Snatchfield’s high to medium landscape and visual sensitivity cannot be changed.
Clearly, Shropshire Council has a moving goal post policy of proposing development on a site which 5 years ago it deemed to have very limited capacity for housing and was deleted from the SAMDEV process. If this policy is sound, Shropshire Council could potentially propose sites for example on the slopes of the Long Mynd and Caradoc when further housing is needed in Church Stretton, because there are no other suitable sites available. Surely, Shropshire Council must have a red line; if it deems that a housing development site is not acceptable, then it cannot become acceptable in the future unless all of the factors against development have been eliminated or mitigated.
The second question I asked about housing numbers was:
When setting the required number of dwellings, Shropshire Council exceeded the government’s calculation for housing need for Shropshire (25,400); and ignored a public consultation about the level of development needed, going for the highest level, whereas the majority of respondents preferred the lower level.
Please explain why?
I did not receive a clear explanation of the reasons why Shropshire Council has decided that there is a need for 28,750, over 3,000 more than the government’s assessment, and why it ignored a public consultation.
If fewer houses are needed in Shropshire, then fewer houses would be needed in Church Stretton.
The housing policy in Church Stretton should be the promotion of town centre affordable housing for local people, rather than allow the creation of large market value housing estates remote from the schools, shops and health services. Shropshire Council should use smaller town centre sites, including those less than 0.5 hectare, and actively facilitate the use of vacant commercial sites for housing, which will also help to reinvent the town centre.
If there are insufficient town centre sites, then Shropshire Council should locate the needed housing in the nearest market town.
When comparing Church Stretton with the other 10 key centres, none of which are in the AONB, 5 of the key centres either have the same or a lower percentage of the total number of required dwellings; and 4 of the 5 remaining key centres do not have a significantly greater percentage increase of the required number of dwellings.
Therefore, Shropshire Council has not had regard to Church Stretton’s unique quality and set a lower number of required dwellings, and has treated it the same as a key centre that is outside an AONB.
In conclusion, Shropshire Council should have a red line policy that they adhere to and not move the goal posts. Shropshire Council deemed Snatchfields unacceptable in 2014 and should remain so, because it is impossible to alter the landscape and visual factors which were part of the reasons why it was previously removed as a development site.
Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner (Retired)