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We have been poorly served

Readers' letters | Published:

Andrew Morris reports that Morrison’s have made a major step forward in their plans for a store at the Oswestry Cattle Market, by widening the potential use of their existing town centre store.

The new store was granted planning permission last Christmas. When Shropshire Council considers whether to grant a planning permission, they are required by law to take account of the Development Plan and all material considerations. The law does not give them the opportunity to pick and choose. They must weigh them all, and show that they have done so.

National planning policy is a material consideration, and in this case national policy says that developments should give priority first to pedestrian and cycle movements, both within the scheme and with neighbouring areas; and second – so far as possible – to facilitating access to high quality public transport.

In the case of a big supermarket that must surely mean that the store itself should be nearest the pedestrian and bus access points, with the car taking second place. Pedestrians should not have to walk across large areas of car park to get to the store. This was drawn to the attention of the council and the developer during the consultation on the application.

Similarly, the Development Plan requires development to be sustainable. It cannot be sustainable to invest carbon intensive steel and concrete in a filling station on the site when the Government is requiring the change away from diesel and petrol within the next 20 years. This was also drawn to the attention of the council and the developer.

The council took absolutely no notice of these issues, to the extent that they did not even consider them in their report.

This followed the saga of the Aldi store which led to the demolition of the Telford Gatehouse, one of Oswestry’s historic landmarks. Again the council’s attention was drawn to national policy which said that distinctive features of an area should be respected.

Again, the council did not even consider this material consideration.

Arguably, in both cases the council failed to comply with the law in ignoring these matters. There can be only two explanations for omitting to consider them – either those carrying out the assessment are incompetent, or worse still, they have bent to the supermarket’s power.

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The developers promised a cinema, scrapped; they promised a shuttle bus, dropped with compensation paid to Shropshire, not seen by Oswestry, and now they are selling their site in central Oswestry, which they promised to keep open.

Whichever it is, Oswestry has been poorly served by those charged with looking after the public interest. Time for an explanation.

Saffron Rainey, Chairman, Oswestry and District Civic Society

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