Date set for crunch meeting that could be key in whether major green-belt housing plans go ahead

A date has been set for a crunch meeting of planning inspectors that could be key in whether major green-belt housing plans go ahead.

Shropshire Council has been told that inspectors will hold the latest stage of the examination of the authority’s local plan on January 17 – with a reserve day set aside for January 18.

The meeting will discuss whether the authority has fulfilled its ‘duty to co-operate’ with other councils – and will be key to the future of a controversial rejected proposal from the Bradford Estates to build 3,000 homes and business land north of Junction Three of the M54, and west of the village of Tong.

Shropshire Council’s local plan is one of the most important documents prepared by the authority, setting out where homes and businesses can be built in every town and village in the county.

The plan sets out a framework for where more than 30,000 homes will be built up until 2038.

When drawing up the plan Shropshire Council chose not to include the Bradford Estates site in its proposal.

The ‘duty to co-operate’ is a legal requirement for councils to help neighbouring authorities when they do not have enough space to meet their own housing needs.

As part of its local plan Shropshire Council had included 1,500 homes, which it said would count towards towards a shortfall of space in the Black Country.

The Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA) – made up of Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton, and Sandwell councils – had challenged the offer.

In a letter to planning inspectors, Walsall Council specifically called for the Tong plans from the Bradford Estates, to be allowed to go ahead.

Representatives from the Bradford Estates also challenged the council’s position.

The issue has been complicated by a disagreement between the four Black Country councils, which fell out over their own Black Country Local Plan last month.

The proposal has been shelved after Dudley Council, which wished to remove two controversial sites from the plan, withdrew.

The authority said it would create its own plan, with its leader Patrick Harley, saying he could not allow public feedback to be ignored.

The move led to the three remaining councils all confirming they would create their own local plans.

The planning inspectors presiding over the Shropshire Council local plan has confirmed that the collapse of the neighbouring plan will be discussed, along with it potential implications for Shropshire’s duty to co-operate.

Other issues to be explored during the hearing will be whether Shropshire has met its ‘duty to co-operate’ for both housing, and job growth and employment land.

Inspectors are also set to ask about plans for landfill, describing further capacity in Shropshire as “very limited”.

They will ask: “Has there been any discussion with neighbouring authorities about potentially accommodating waste needing disposal after existing landfill capacity has been exhausted?”

By Dominic Robertson

Chief Reporter