Our story made it onto the front page of the Bridgnorth Journal as well as being covered in a big piece in the Shropshire Star :
Shropshire Council has come under fire for advertising parts of the county to developers, despite consultation on the sites not being completed.
The sites, which have been the subject of considerable opposition from local residents, feature in a leaflet put together by Invest in Shropshire – the council’s department set up to attract investment to the county.
The leaflet features 30 ‘investment sites’, including several which have not yet been through consultation.
Consultation on some sites, such as land at Stanmore in Bridgnorth, has taken place, but a decision on whether to approve the plans, has not yet been taken.
The situation has led to campaigners accusing the council of pre-empting its decisions on the proposals.
Sites included on the leaflet are land at Tong, which has been put forward for around 3,000 homes and commercial land, land at Stanmore in Bridgnorth where the council wants to create a ‘garden settlement’, and at Shifnal, where residents are strongly opposed to plans for more than 1,500 homes and a huge business site.
All the listings state that the sites are “subject to the current local plan review to be concluded in 2020”.
Some county sites were promoted as part of the Midlands UK delegation at the international developers’ conference, MIPIM, on the French Riviera in Cannes last month.
The public have already been asked their opinion on the Bridgnorth and Shifnal plans, which are included in Shropshire Council’s ‘preferred site’ review of the local development plan, but no decision has been taken on whether they will be allowed to go ahead.
Tong is included in Shropshire Council’s ‘strategic sites’ review, and consultation on the plans is expected to take place later this year.
Sheila Edwards, chairwoman of Save Bridgnorth Greenbelt said, “Shropshire Council is totally out of control. Seeking investment for Greenbelt sites on a junket in Cannes means they have pre-determined the future of these sites before the next round of consultation. That is not only undemocratic but supremely arrogant.
“We were grateful for the intervention of our MP Philip Dunne, along with Mark Pritchard MP, with the Minister for Housing and Planning in the House of Commons last week. We are imploring local residents to contact Philip and Bridgnorth Town Councillors urging that the light of scrutiny is shone on Shropshire Council before Bridgnorth is wrecked.
“Residents should not suffer the insult of finding the place they call home being peddled abroad in a real estate brochure or be forced to rely on freedom of information requests to get straight answers.”
John Moore of the Shifnal Matters campaign group added: “Our concern is this has been predetermined and it is being pushed through consultation without any real intention of listening to the results of that consultation.”
Gemma Davies, Shropshire Council’s head of economic growth, said they had made clear that the sites are not yet available but wanted developers to be aware of “potential opportunities”.
She said: “Shropshire is a great place to live, work and invest and there are a wide range of opportunities for investors of all types and sizes.
“A number of current and potential investment sites can be found on the Invest in Shropshire website and other promotional material. Some of these sites are subject to the completion of the Local Plan review, and this is clearly caveated, but we want potential investors to be aware that these are sites that may become available in 2020, once this review has been completed and the Local Plan has been considered by an independent government inspector. This is an opportunity to soft market test some of the potential opportunities that are being promoted to us as part of the Local Plan review.
[Our note: notice Ms Davies’ use of the word ‘yet’.]