Shifnal expansion plans: Mixed feelings over homes, business and bypass proposals
People in Shifnal are torn over the benefits of the town's planned expansion and the drawbacks of having an ever-rising population.
Shifnal is a town under pressure because of its own popularity.
The Shropshire Star revealed yesterday how land in the town, some of it green belt, could be sacrificed for a development that would see a business park, about 1,000 homes and a bypass.
Shifnal, like other towns along the M54 corridor, are under ‘ever increasing pressures’ under a 20-year development plan by Shropshire Council.
The town has already seen 197 houses built since 2016, with it targeted for a total of 1,500 – along with 40 hectares of employment land – with vast areas of green belt land being recommended for use.
Many business leaders and residents say the developments, expected to continue until 2036, only heighten the town’s infrastructural problems with congestion and access to services being the biggest concerns.
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Wendy Millington, owner of Mrs Spikes Cakes and Sugarcraft Supplies, said the town is growing at an alarming rate.
“There are obvious benefits to see Shifnal growing,” she said. “But it’s bringing along with it problem after problem.
“Our surgeries aren’t big enough and parking is a major problem within the town already. People take advantage of free parking, driving into Shifnal to catch a train to somewhere else, meaning locals can’t get into town and do their shopping.
“It’s all very well Shifnal getting bigger but the people coming here aren’t shopping here or living here as such, they’re taking advantage of the town’s transport links and not using the town as a town should be used.
“You can’t even get an appointment at the doctors. I think everywhere is going the same way but Shifnal is growing at an alarming rate. There’s a lot of houses going up.”
Following Broseley Town Council’s vote to investigate a ‘Broxit’ switch from Shropshire Council to Telford & Wrekin, talk has already started to stir on whether Shifnal should do the same.
Daniel Bailey, a former Shifnal town councillor, said: “If Shropshire Council is not willing to consider the impact of what it is doing, then I think Shifnal would do good to follow what Broseley is doing.
“I can’t speak for the whole of Shifnal but in my opinion Telford & Wrekin Council seem to be better on roads, better on recycling – we’re on their doorstep as it is.
“I’m not entirely filled in with what Shropshire Council are planning and I think that’s the problem with a lot of people.
"I actively try and stay on top of what’s going on in Shifnal but I know there are already severe problems. The town is completely gridlocked come 5pm. We’ve got a doctors surgery on the verge of collapse because it can’t cope with the sheer amount of people here anymore.
“The services around here are falling apart and we can’t continue to swallow up green belt land.”
While not all residents are on board with a Shifnal ‘Shexit’-style switch from Shropshire Council to Telford & Wrekin, many agree the town is sacrificing its services.
Alison Bradley, a resident of Shifnal for more than 12 years, said: “I would sell my house and move out of Shifnal if we became part of Telford & Wrekin.
“We’re right on the edge of Telford & Wrekin here and they will build on absolutely anything so I don’t think it would help, and I like being in Shropshire.
“But the congestion and strain on services is only going to get worse.
“I’ve been here for more than 10 years and it’s not the town I moved into. With all the houses that are being built, people still expect a nice town environment.”
M54 corridor attractive attraction to developers for homes and businesses
The prospect of green belt land being used to expand Shifnal has thrown focus on plans for huge development of the surrounding countryside.
Last year it was revealed that Bradford Estates was investigating the possibility of building as many as 10,000 homes in a series of inter-linked garden villages on land surrounding Tong.
Although the proposals are at an early stage, and are not included in Shropshire’s Local Development Plan, they could see up to 1,600 acres of countryside used for housing.
Those proposals are being investigated by consultants for Shropshire Council, whose study will outline whether they can be added to the county’s local plan.
Combined with the council’s local plan proposals for Shifnal, they would represent huge swathes of green belt land being given over for development.
Both Tong and Shifnal are close to the M54 corridor, increasing their attraction to developers looking to build homes or set up sites for new business.
The Shifnal plans outline using up to 40 hectares of land for business between now and 2036.
Shropshire Council has admitted that plans to make green belt land available are “controversial”.
Speaking last month Adrian Cooper, planning policy and strategy manager at Shropshire Council, said some of the preferred sites in the local development plan would be on green belt land that currently acts as a buffer between Shifnal and Telford.
He said: “This land is to the south of the A5 and to the east of the River Severn and it’s there to stop Telford joining up with the likes of Shifnal and Albrighton.
“Our green belt land has not changed since the 90s. There will be implications of putting it up for development. There are areas around Shifnal and Bridgnorth which are proposed for release from the green belt for development.
“It will be controversial but we have to jump through hoops to get this land released. We have to look for alternatives first and it will be something that is argued over relentlessly going forward.”