Latest Planning News (December 2019)
New life for Country Linens premises, Castle Street?
We were delighted to see an application to revamp the premises that used to be the Country Linens shop in Castle Street, by a successful local business that needed more space. It was not seeking to alter this large frontage. Castle Street is a key route into the town centre particularly for pedestrians arriving by train; and businesses play an essential part in its vitality and amenity. The Big Town Plan has funds to improve this important conduit including station environs and is looking at possibilities. However, we have now heard that plans for the vacant shop may have changed.
150 houses at edge of Meole Brace Retail Park
The committee had some very mixed views about an outline application to build 150 houses on land between the Meole Brace Retail Park and the Park and Ride. There have been previous attempts to find a use for the site. Our concerns led to a visit from the developer who listened carefully and may return to discuss the detailed design of any approved development.
One bugbear that dogs new development is that of layouts which do not integrate well with the surrounding area. They are effectively marooned islands, which can add to the deathly feel of edge of town housing. We are told it is what purchasers want, but what about the wider community?
Branding overkill (Shrewsbury Pubs)
It is concerning to see applications that blatantly “brand” public house buildings (in one case smothering a number of distinct properties) by painting stripes right across them and adding unnecessarily large signage. We objected to such plans for the Crown at Abbey Foregate and the Bulls Head in Castle Street. (Both are listed buildings.) Listed buildings should maintain their architectural individuality and richness of the street.
Information, information, information (Planning Applications)
We often find applications that are unclear, have too little information, or fail to identify the impact that the development may have on adjacent buildings. We don’t think they should be accepted by the Local Planning Authority. This can happen partly because of ‘pre-application’ discussion held by the applicant with planners. However, it leaves the public and councillors poorly informed and in the dark. When over 95% of applications are determined by delegated powers, we then get little say on our local environment.
Applications regarding trees can make up a significant number of those appearing on the planning portal each month. Happily committee member and tree enthusiast Angela Hughes has been helping us. All too often we find that requests to fell a tree are not really necessary. We feel that trees are vitally important to the look and the health of our streets and so removing them should be a last resort.
Design quality of Southern Urban Extension
The quality of new developments taking place on the Southern Urban Extension (SUE) could be better. They all seem too predictable and lack the distinctiveness that Shrewsbury should expect. A Design Accreditation Scheme is available for developers in Shropshire but it appears to have had no impact so far. We would like to see higher quality architect designs as suggested by the government’s new Design Guide.
Land off Redbarn Lane
There has been another application to build on land off Red Barn Lane. (This time for five houses.) There have been several attempts to build on this prized green wedge of land. One of Shrewsbury ‘s precious features is the green corridors of unbuilt land that bisect its suburbs often following the brooks and affording attractive vistas and unexpected pathways around the town.
Ancient Lion Coppice
An outline application for a small estate on land off Battlefield Road, involving a rare vestige of ancient wood called Lion Coppice, was submitted. The land has high historic and ecological value. Fortunately the matter made front page news in the Chronicle. Many local people and organisations objected. We were among them. This led to the application being withdrawn.
We did not object to a larger estate opposite, where the land does not have these characteristics.
The ‘roaring Twenties’ for planning
The Planning Committee is working hard and making a difference. Well we think so! The committee members’ efforts are highly valued with an increased number of demands. Mike Law, (an ex-Shropshire Planner) has been an observer and has now officially joined us. We also have a number of “associate” members who make email comments when appropriate.
As well as the day-to-day of applications, we are putting our mind to bigger ideas that will contribute to more strategic initiatives like the Big Town Plan. We also have an ‘access group’ which is examining and will report on how the pedestrian experience of the town and its built environment could be improved.
The twenties are going to be an important time for the town with a great deal on the horizon. There are six factors bringing potentially significant changes (see articles elsewhere on our website by clicking on the links below)