#67: May 1st: County Councillor’s Report

My last report generated quite a bit of comment on the local Facebook pages, but no one appreciated the full significance of the decision to allow those 20 ‘affordable’ houses intended for the site alongside the bridleway behind the telephone exchange. Understandable because there was a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in the process because the underlying sensitivity of this site lies in the impact the earlier decision to refuse permission would have had on Council plans for the larger site just yards away to the north.

I can only imagine the panic when the full import of that refusal by that case officer became known to the rest of the planning department. I bet it wasn’t long before the full weight of the more senior principle plannning officers descended on the poor man’s head.

Another refusal for that smaller site, especially on the grounds of “over-development” outlined by earlier Planning Inspectors, would call into question all of Shropshire Council planning department’s plans for the much larger neighbouring site, just a bridleway’s-width away, for 122 houses, a housing development equal to every housing development we’ve seen built here since 2013; that’s another Hitchens Way (58), another Staley Grove (35), another St Peters View (19) and Whittles Close (10).

As I said in April, I was particularly angry that the application repeated assertions about the low impact that those 20 affordable houses will have on the traffic situation at what is LOCALLY (Shropshire Council highways have a different take on things) considered to be one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Highley, both for vehicles and, critically, given the “affordable” category of family housing proposed, young children of school age.

Whilst that assertion of ‘low impact’ persisted throughout the officer and consultee comments on the earlier application for nine bungalows, it acknowledged that the relatively low impact was BECAUSE they were bungalows!

On the basis that a typical domestic dwelling generates on average 6 vehicle movements per day, the 9 dwellings proposed would generate possibly 54 movements plus any associated with the farm access, although it is noted that the dwellings are bungalows and are likely to be occupied by older people who may not make as many journeys each day.

But by carefully phrasing his report to committee to emphasise the classification of those 20 houses as “affordable homes” and the site itself as an “exception site” (= outside the development boundary of a settlement) the planning officer assigned to the resubmission over-rode all other considerations, amongst which I’d have to put ‘common sense’. What was also over-ridden and hence this second article on the subject, was the cumulative impact on Highley of that proposal for the 122-house development alongside it, using the same access exiting onto the same bend on the same stretch of road.

On the basis of those official calculations for the amount of traffic generated by one house, “on average 6 vehicle movements per day”, 122 houses would generate “on average” 732 (= 6 x 122) movements “plus any associated with the farm access” to Hazelwells Farm at the other end of the bridleway.

But hey, what the heck am I doing forgetting Tremellen’s First Law of Fundamental Errors, which has do with the disappointment generated by the lack of joined-up thinking being directly proportional to expectation. The greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment when that expectation isn’t met. Silly me.

Back in 2013 I was so naive that I didn’t understand the lack of joined-up thinking behind some of the decisions I saw being made at Shirehall. What was there seemed to follow an agenda that had a beginning and an end but nothing in between. Sleight of hand and tongue, the definition of words that took semantics into the higher realms of deniability was the norm, which sums up the report that the case officer on that application for those 20 houses presented to the planning committee. I can’t wait to see what he does in his report for those 122 houses, I’m sure it’ll be fascinating.

Dave Tremellen