SHROPSHIRE COUNCIL'S REVIEW OF THE LOCAL PLAN
The third stage of Shropshire Council’s Local Plan Review was taken to Cabinet on 7th November 2018. It sets out the detail of what is proposed, in terms of housing guidelines and site allocations, in the towns and also now in the 39 villages that are proposed as “Hubs”. We asked another question (see here) which was as usual brushed aside. The consultation itself runs from 29th November to 31st January. The delay is in order for the Council to publish another raft of papers to support their proposals.
The Council kindly gave us access to the data supporting their summaries of the responses to the two previous consultations. We were able to re-analyse the data, with stark results. The electorate are overwhelmingly against the Council’s high housing targets. It is only the development sector, and the Council, that want them. We think that the Council should take proper note of this, and opt for lower targets.
Only about 18,000 houses are genuinely needed. Any targets beyond that 18,000 are pandering to perceived demand, not satisfying genuine need (because "need" can be a misconstrued term, CPRE National Office has produced a paper, Needless Demand (see here - 6MB) which argues for a clearer distinction between what is genuine need, and what is aspirational demand). The Council believes it must at least satisfy the Government’s controversial new calculation of 25,400 dwellings, but all the options it offered were well above that figure. If it did adopt that figure, it might satisfy the electorate.
The Council’s calculations of employment land requirement are probably double what is needed. Accordingly, there is not really the claimed “balance” between employment land and housing figures. The question about this that we put to Cabinet on 2nd May had to be followed up by a Freedom of Information request. That revealed that one of their calculations of required employment land was overstated by 250%!
Not enough emphasis is placed on increasing the stocks of affordable/social housing, or housing for the ageing population. It is welcome news that the documents presented to Cabinet on 7th November 2018 included one proposing that the Council sets up a “vehicle” to build houses itself, with a greater proportion being affordable.
The designation of Hubs and Clusters remains questionable. The Council has promised to publish its updated scoring system soon.
The strategy does not represent sustainable development. It will increase, rather than reduce, greenhouse gas emissions.
The Council’s reasons for over-riding what members of the public and Town & Parish Councils said in the first two rounds of consultation remain questionable. In launching its Economic Growth Strategy before the first consultation had ended, it changed the basis of its “offer”.
Economic Growth Strategy
The Council has a stated ‘growth culture’ and wants to ‘achieve maximum economic productivity’. There was no reference to sustainability in the consultation documents (which can be seen here). We have serious misgivings about this ‘growth, growth, growth’ culture, which is so obviously unsustainable in the long term. There must be more emphasis on addressing the effects of climate change too, which appears to be completely lacking from the Council’s thinking on this.
This Consultation clashed with the first stage of the Local Plan Review, and we felt obliged to question the validity of the whole process surrounding this EGS consultation.
Our full 10-page response to the consultation (which closed on 28th April 2017) can be seen here. The Council received only 68 responses, having sent out to over 4,000 contacts. Does that really constitute an adequate consultation?
Shropshire Council then published the Final Economic Growth Strategy in July 2017: the related documents are here.
The Council wants Shropshire to be “the best place to do business and invest” and wants a “step-change” to “maximise our economic potential and increase productivity” and to make its economy bigger and better. Is that really a realistic, or even sensible, ambition for a beautiful rural county that is currently 33rd out of 41 English Counties on economic performance?
Updated 14th November 2018