Campaigners urge residents to boycott developer’s ‘masterplan’ meetings
Save Bridgnorth Greenbelt, the group fighting back against controversial plans to build a ‘garden village’ on 410 acres of greenbelt land on the outskirts of Bridgnorth, have hit back against a ‘PR Campaign’ launched by the landowner’s consortium and their Birmingham based communications agency, Camargue. The group stresses that the only consultation that counts is the official consultation with Shropshire Council which will take place early next year.
Rebecca Turner, Swancote resident and group press officer said, ‘Skepticism is needed when dealing with a PR company working for landowners that have a vested interest in convincing you that the development is necessary and wanted. Bridgnorth people aren’t fools, we’re sure they’ll take it all with a very big pinch of salt. We’ve been watching closely what’s been happening with agencies working for landowners’ in Shifnal and Tong, and talking to our counterparts there. There’s nothing to be gained, even if you’re on our side, by engaging with these people’.
SBGB said that residents, already anxious and overwhelmed by the plans, were further worried by what they saw on the consortium’s website. Miss Turner added, ‘There are lots of questionable claims on jobs and housing numbers; it hardly fills us with confidence that they’re going to play fair. We need to ensure residents engage with the democratic process and raise concerns with their local councillors, and know what questions to ask, rather than waste time getting drawn in by PR spin’.
From the campaigner’s perspective, they say there are two key questions that Shropshire Council have repeatedly failed to answer:
Firstly, where is the evidence that shows that the local need is for this number of homes, and what are the exceptional circumstances for the release of Greenbelt land?
And secondly, why are Shropshire Council ignoring the views of residents who, as part of the statutory Preferred Sites Consultation at the end of last year, overwhelmingly objected to the scheme? And why are residents now faced with a PR campaign funded by private interests for that same proposal?
The group’s new Chairman, Darren Hodson said, ‘The year has been a difficult one for all of us, waiting for the Landowners to show and tell. We’ve worked really hard to communicate the sheer scale of the development and to help residents understand the implications for our future.’
He pointed out that the group had received more than a thousand surveys from local residents, overwhelmingly against the scheme.
“The clear message Worfield Parish and Bridgnorth residents gave us was that the greenbelt, now more than ever, needs to be protected. We support, and are working hard to defend, that view. However, we cannot fight this on our own, it’s a daunting task, and if we are going to protect what we cherish, we need residents to rally behind us. We will be discussing these plans with accountable, elected councillors, not the landowners, and we will share what we find in our next round of public meetings next month’.