Legal threat over bid to build 3,000 homes near M54
Legal action could be taken against Shropshire Council if major development plans near the M54 are given the go ahead.
The council has not yet officially put forward plans for 3,000 homes and commercial sites at Tong.
But Councillor Ed Bird, member for Shifnal South and Cosford, said if the plans were officially adopted a legal challenge might have to be utilised.
But he called on the authority to work with town and parish councils in the region over the local plan.
Councillor Bird said feelings are running high in the area and while he gave his backing to the plans for Cosford, which are going out for public consultation next month, he said those questioned were overwhelmingly against the M54 corridor plans.
He said: “Since proudly being elected as member for Shifnal South and Cosford last July, I have been confronted with a number of serious issues for the town and surrounding parishes.
“The most notable challenge for the district has been the Shropshire Council Local Plan Review of preferred sites consultation which would see a near doubling in size of the town of Shifnal, mainly to the east, south and west of the existing boundaries.
“The town council was very clear from the outset and in pre-meetings that the scale of the development was unacceptable and questioned whether land set aside for employment would ever come to fruition.
“This was reflected in the official response the town council gave to the consultation.
“A local campaign group, Shifnal Matters, was launched by local residents and they have been very successful in raising awareness of the major changes facing Shifnal and the effects on already struggling local services.”
Councillor Bird said during the first round of public consultation into the local plan there were 3,600 responses from across Shropshire, with 1,353 from Shifnal alone. The next highest was Shrewsbury with 498.
He said that when asked if people agreed with the development proposed for Shifnal, 98 per cent answered no.
He added: “I believe it is now vital that planning officers give serious consideration to these responses and amend their plans accordingly.
“In addition to that Tong and Cosford were one of the ‘strategic’ sites earmarked for major development, with initially 10,000 new houses planned, although this has now been reduced to 3,000 plus a large employment site.
“Paul Fisher, the chair of the Tong Parish Council has been working tirelessly to obtain more details on these proposals and the reasoning behind them.
“Residents have been shocked by the planned developments around their historic village, affecting, as in Shifnal, large areas of green belt land.
“It should be noted, however, there are two parts to the proposal: one is to develop the existing RAF Cosford base, which I am in favour of, as it secures its future and that of the museum and training college.”
However, he said he is opposed to the Tong plans, which are not to meet Shropshire’s housing needs, but those of the neighbouring Black Country.
“The second part of the proposal is for additional housing and employment land around Tong which I strongly oppose,” he said.
“The additional 3,000 houses at Tong are not part of the Shropshire Council local review document and are not required for the county to meet its medium to long term housing needs.
“In fact, the land would be used for the West Midlands Combined Authority to meet its own targets.
“This, despite the fact that there are large tracts of brownfield sites that should be used first, before destroying green belt, which should only be used in exceptional circumstances.
“I understand that given the location of Shifnal and Tong in close proximity to the M54 and to a rail line giving access to Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Telford and Shrewsbury that they are an attractive proposition to developers and future homeowners.
“I believe that people understand the need for managed growth. However given the current capacity of the local GP surgery, schools and roads there is a need to address infrastructure before any further expansion is considered.”
Councillor Bird added: “Should Shropshire Council decide to support housing and employment plans around Tong I expect a similar public response to that seen in Shifnal.
“Ultimately this may lead to legal action being taken against Shropshire Council, something all parties would wish to avoid.
“What we need are sensible housing proposals with proper recognition of the state of roads and the strain on public services.
“It is only by working together that Shropshire Council, town and parish councils can deliver the services and infrastructure that the public are crying out for.”
Shropshire Council said it is not yet ready to consult on the M54 site plans as it needs more information from the Black Country region to assure it has run out of suitable land for development.