Council’s claims? Our Reply

Yesterday Shropshire Star published an article in which Adrian Cooper, Head of Planning defended the council’s plans to build almost 2,000 houses in Bridgnorth: Shropshire Council defend plans to build hundreds of homes in Bridgnorth

In it he makes various claims and statements regarding the suitability of the site, the inability to find alternative sites, local employers, the Greenbelt etc.

This is our reply:

Once again Mr Cooper uses disingenuous and misleading arguments, but no evidence, to try to justify this wholly unnecessary and disproportionate development which will badly damage both Bridgnorth, Stanmore and surrounding hamlets.  Residents are really fed up with the slippery words, this is not a medieval fiefdom but a supposedly democratic process.

We’ve written to Shropshire Council’s Chief Executive today asking for an extension to the consultation, as we believe the entire process is deeply flawed.

We also urge local residents to use our guidance on how to navigate the Council’s confusing, overly complex, and inaccessible consultation documents and lodge their objection to this unnecessary and unwanted development by the deadline on FRIDAY 8th FEBRUARY.

In brief, we particularly want to highlight that the Council’s “sales pitch” in the above article:

  • Fails to mention that the Hobbins, Country Park, and surrounding fields are classified as Greenbelt in SAMDev (the industrial estate is protected employment land) and that a Green Belt Review has not yet been carried out. There is no ‘existing urban fabric’ despite the Council’s claims
  • Fails to mention Shropshire Council’s own November 2018 Strategic Land Availability Assessment rejected development around Stanmore as unsuitable in its entirety.
  • Fails to mention that Bridgnorth Council have identified land to the South West of the A458 Bridgnorth by-pass, or further to the North West of the existing (but as yet undeveloped) SAMDev housing allocation at Tasley that are in fact possible alternative sites.
  • Fails to acknowledge land for the Stanmore Country Park was compulsorily purchased by the Council precisely to preserve the Green Belt.
  • Fails to mention the 565 homes approved but yet to be built in Tasley – this alone will increase the town’s population by 10%. If the Stanmore plan goes through, that will be a total population increase of 40%.
  • Fails to give any assurances about the provision of infrastructure – development on this scale would overwhelm the infrastructure in Bridgnorth and have an unacceptable negative impact on local communities and the historic town itself. At the public meeting in January Mr Cooper openly said that infrastructure could not be guaranteed.
  • Fails to evidence claims about the potential loss of local employers, implying that dedicated local businesses, who have invested a great deal in recent years in their Bridgnorth plants, are somehow implicated in pushing for this plan.
  • Is using recorded annual AVERAGE numbers of new houses, not ACTUAL total numbers, which is – either by accident or design – misleading.

Save Bridgnorth Greenbelt group have asked the Council for a meeting specifically for the residents of Stanmore, Swancote and Hoccum as the effect on the communities there is so massive – the Council have flatly refused.

We would also point out that people employed in county planning offices are supposed to impartially inform and explain plans to the general public.  County planner, Adrian Cooper is repeatedly evasive on the “special circumstance” which prompted this development and appears to be attempting to ‘sell’ this development rather than to impartially explain it.

We also also concerned the consultation itself is flawed, overly complex, doesn’t use Plain English and is inaccessible to those who are not tech savvy or who don’t have access to the internet.  The Council’s own website says that ““paper copies of the consultation materials and summaries of the supporting documents” will be available at local libraries and yet the council have instructed the library to refuse to hand out copies to the public, and we know that members of the public have been turned away.

This whole thing is a mess, their misleading claims, their shambles of a consultation, their sudden about face on the Greenbelt.  Are we really expected to trust them on their rationale for this development, on infrastructure, or when they promise ‘safeguarded’ land won’t be developed until after 2036?