Latest Planning News (March 2020)
Ex-Country Linens premises, 16/17 Castle Street
In our last newsletter, we noted positive plans by a popular local coffee shop to refurbish the premises of the old Country Linens shop in Castle Street, involving little alteration to the large frontage. It now seems likely a local architecture practice will take it on, which is also a good outcome.
Lack of Information
We are still finding that some planning applications are submitted and accepted (validated) without the detail needed to enable an informed judgement. The old Thornton’s Store at 55, Wyle Cop is a case in point, where the application to convert it to residential use had very little on the potential impact on the street. In another application for change of use – 12 Dogpole – no details were included on the alterations or intentions for the building. We have joined a number of objectors.
Hencote Winery & Restaurant (“The View”)
Perched on a hill with the finest outlook over Shrewsbury is the Hencote Winery and Restaurant, called The View. Beside this development and nestled into trees on the hill-slopes are a number of glamping huts. There has now been an application for a further 26 holiday lodges (tent-shaped structures) which will be prominent from a distance and use the land up to the unadopted Hencote Lane. Our Planning Committee thinks this is too much, do you?
Skylines and Rooftops
Skylines or ‘roofscapes’ can be a defining feature of a town and the pin-sharp spires, cascades of slate roof, chimneys, changes in elevation and the pleasing vistas this affords play a part in Shrewsbury’s glory. They are increasingly under threat. There have been applications to remove chimney stacks from town centre buildings and even from listed properties (for example, 50 Castle Street and 3 Meole Hall Gardens).
Furthermore, many new fringe estates present designs for new homes with no chimneys. It is understandable in this age of green heating but it also leaves skylines uniform and unbroken. Again better design is needed. Meanwhile, the local authority is contesting an appeal concerning a rooftop ‘sunroom’, built without permission, on the top of Chester House, Chester Street. The structure is disproportionate and dominates the skyline, can be seen from many angles and borders the rooflines of several listed buildings nearby. We support the council on this.
Weir Hill/Preston Street
There is considerable disquiet about the application for the second phase of this development. Our comments have made a difference as amended plans show, for example, more cycleways and a few chimneys. However, there’s nothing substantive! Nevertheless, other objectors are focused on contractors’ failure to keep to the agreed construction plans. Councillor Dean and Shrewsbury Going Forward are also seeking meetings to get improvements.
We are pleased that an application to erect a dwelling at Longmeadow Drive (off Abbey Foregate) has been rejected. There has been a lot of so called backland applications along Abbey Foregate and a slow erosion of the green wedge that follows the Rea Brook. We think this is precious land and should be retained as a wildlife and amenity corridor right into the heart of the town. Luckily, this has been upheld in a previous appeal.
This is the longest running saga we have had, and the most important building on our list of ‘Buildings of Concern’. Planning permission was granted last year for a large extension that we (and Historic England) thought was overpowering. Nevertheless, it seemed that the building might get a renewed life. But nothing has happened. The lease-holder has not sought to get the necessary permission for residential use, nor tried to keep the building in good repair. The answer to our Freedom of Information request said the authority has no information on why the building has not been maintained over the last 15 years. It also stated that enforcement actions were entirely within the authority’s purview as both the freeholder and the planning authority.
The Big Town Plan
The main master-planning sessions are largely over. There is one that looked just at the detail of what should replace the Riverside shopping mall. (This was run by LDA, the previous consultants). We are hoping to set up a separate meeting for the main consultants, Glen Howells (architects), to feed back to us some of the emerging ideas that may shape town centre changes over the next decade. The Planning Committee was receiving updates on the progress of the master-planning.
Within the principles of the Big Town Plan was an aspiration to control the quality of developments in the town, There still is a hope that a “Shrewsbury Test” may be applied to any proposals to help ensure only high quality developments. However, the “Test” has yet to be written. Shrewsbury Civic Society is in discussion with the Planning Authority and Big Town Plan leaders to hasten this for insertion in the Local Plan.
North West Relief Road
Most members will know that the so-called ‘North West Relief Road’ is nearing its planning stage. There are many reasons for and many against building it. Shrewsbury Civic Society has not come to a view. In November, we held a public meeting that sought to identify the key facts. This proved extremely difficult with only one brave man willing to argue for the road, while the council refused to come and make its case to townspeople. However, we are now delighted, that following further research, Shropshire Council is holding public consultations during March and April to disseminate this and collect views. Visit: www.shropshire.gov.uk/get-involved for more information.
Shropshire’s Planning Manager, Ian Kilby, is no longer relying on the Developer Accreditation Scheme with which he sought to improve the design quality of developments. There are efforts to adopt the West Midlands Combined Authority Design Charter (he had a hand in developing it but it is too general to effect real changes) and to improve the current design quality SPD within the emerging Local Plan (out for consultation in May 2020)
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski now sits on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee. It is yet to flex its powers in promoting the Government’s recent National Design Guide (This says there will be a more detailed “Design Code” published soon)
Civic Voice has a scheme that supports local Civic Societies to appraise their Conservation Areas. It was suggested that Shrewsbury might like to see if the Shrewsbury Conservation Area is one of the many that are at risk of failing. Issues such as erosion of historic highways surfaces, un-maintained buildings, replaced street furniture and ignored heritage assets are some of the many criteria. Sounds familiar? The Civic Society would need more help to record and assess the current situation. Can you help?
There is a 3-page article in the March/April edition of ‘My Shrewsbury’ about the Civic Society and planning matters. It outlines the reasons why we can expect some significant changes to the town centre in this decade and beyond. The article also provides a good opportunity to attract more members generally (and for the Planning Committee) as we are just coming up to the membership year. It is likely that many Shrewsbury folk would want to support the protection and enhancement of Shrewsbury’s rare features. It would be very helpful if existing members could encourage others to join.