In an earlier blog, I cited the ‘Rural Toolkit’ which is set out in Shropshire Council’s Core Strategy (para 4.66)…

4.66 Shropshire Council is adopting a “bottom up” approach, whereby it works with communities at the parish and village level in together undertaking an intelligent analysis of the nature of their local community and how their village functions, and how it can be improved. This is done through an interactive toolkit that starts with the Parish Plan or Village or Town Design Statement where available; secondly adds statistics compiled by Shropshire Council, such as Census data, to provide a quantitative basis for discussion; and thirdly engages with the local community in a Community Testing Event to arrive at an agreed view of how the community regards its current sustainability. This methodology will provide quality evidence to help the planning authority make robust decisions on the designation of Community Hubs and Community Clusters. Undertaking the assessment does not commit a community to seek Community Hub or Community Cluster status. The approach is detailed further in the SAMDev DPD.


In that earlier blog I cited it in the context of “consultation”, or rather Shropshire Council planning department’s unique take on the meaning of that word, but here I’m referring to the bit that says:

…adds statistics compiled by Shropshire Council, such as Census data, to provide a quantitative basis for discussion;

It’s that ‘quantitative’ claim that’s in question here, “quantitative” having suffered the same conceptual corruption (!) as “consultation”, judging by the perverse way in which Shropshire Council planning department treats statistics like those in its chosen version of the national population census (see below), but then there’s always the old saying: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’.

For some years it’s bugged me that whilst I refer to Highley’s population being “3,600 plus”, according to Shropshire Council planning department it’s substantially below the figure I’m quoting, and quoting mind you, from published population figures taken from the 2011 population census, not scribbled on the back of a bloody envelope.

According to Shropshire Council planning department it’s 3,200, and yet, apparently, I hadn’t actually been wrong.

But hang on, you can’t have it both ways.

Errr, apparently you can and that’s where it starts to get both interesting and confusing.

My argument is that Highley’s infrastructure has long exceeded the point of saturation, its highways network crumbling, damaged by construction traffic and the consequential increase in commuter movements, its commercial centre clogged by the increase of vehicles associated with growing families compounded by the children of those families having reached the age where they qualified for a driving licence and acquired their own car.

All that on top of those parts of the village relating to its coal-mining past having no off-road parking, meaning on-road parking between Victorian terraced houses had reduced streets to a single carriageway.

And yet it seemed that the planners simply couldn’t get their heads around a situation I was emphatic wasn’t a case of me over-dramatising, they simply quoted that population figure of 3,200 back at me as if to say: “Councillor Tremellen, you’re wrong, you’ve got at least another 400 to go before you reach the population figure you’re saying is the problem”.

Now, it’s worth noting that my 3,600 figure was the one given by the 2011 census and which, incidentally, appears in many council documents, since when Highley has had another 122 houses built since 2013, which MAY go some way to explaining why, despite their insistence on that 3,200 figure, in the email below they’re saying:

The most recent estimates for local authorities are for […] mid-2017. The 2017 mid-year figures estimate there are 3,716 people resident in Highley ward (and Highley parish as they share a boundary.) [See below]

Apparently unaware of the significance of what they’re saying they go on to state:

These estimates are useful for service planning…


But I’m jumping ahead a bit. To get back to where I was, so confused was I by the planning department’s ability to vanish 400 people that I wrote asking for the methodology they were working to, and in answer got…

Sent: 20 August 2019 14:39
To: Dave Tremellen <Dave.Tremellen@shropshire.gov.uk>
Cc: Adrian Cooper; Dan Corden; Steve Taylor; Ian Kilby
Subject: RE: Population

Dear Cllr Tremellen,

Adrian Cooper has asked me to respond to your query.

I’m sorry that it is confusing. The difference in the population estimates stems from the geographic area that has been used to estimate the population, the availability and the time frame of the source data.

2011 Census

I have attached a map illustrating the Highley Parish boundary (with 3,605 population, covering 638 hectares), Highley electoral ward boundary (with 3,605 population, covering 638 hectares) and Highley 2011 Census Built-up-area (BUA) (with 3,133 population, covering 87 hectares). As you have highlighted this data is from the 2011 Census. Also included in the map is Highley development plan boundary. As this has been created for planning purposes, population data is not available for this area from the 2011 Census.

So far, so good.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the population estimates from the 2011 Census on the ONS Nomis web-pages – https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/census/2011. The information collected at household level from the 2011 Census questionnaire is held securely by ONS and will be published after a century has past. ONS take measures in releasing the data to prevent the disclosure of personal information and this can sometimes lead to slight variations (+/- 1-3) in the tables they publish.

The following link opens a 2011 Census Profile for Highley Parish – https://www.shropshire.gov.uk/media/12070/highley.pdf and similarly to enable comparison with the other market towns and key centres, the Highley Key Centre Profile utilises the parish boundary population – https://shropshire.gov.uk/media/9685/highley.pdf.

Hierarchy of Settlements Assessment

The second estimate you mention for 3,195, I believe is from the Hierarchy of Settlements Assessment on page 27 (https://www.shropshire.gov.uk/media/7631/hierarchy-of-settlements-assessment.pdf). This population estimate uses the Highley Local Plan Development Boundary (https://shropshire.gov.uk/media/7619/s9-highley.pdf). This population estimate has been produced using the population figure from the 2011 Census for Highley BUA (3,133) and an estimation of population growth generated from planning completions data from April 1st 2011 to March 31st 2016. The Highley BUA boundary was judged to be the best fit to the development plan boundary.

Judged to be the best fit?

Exactly my point. Statistics are (to most of us anyway) by definition objective, so what is so objective about someone’s judgement set against someone else’s judgement?

The email goes on to say…

Other sources of population estimates

You may also see mid-year population estimates published by ONS available at local authority level, electoral wards, output areas (statistical geography created by ONS), nationally and regionally. These estimates are produced by aging on the population each year since the 2011 Census using births, deaths and migration data. The most recent estimates for local authorities are for mid-2018 and for smaller geographies mid-2017. The 2017 mid-year figures estimate there are 3,716 people resident in Highley ward (and Highley parish as they share a boundary.) For further information please follow this link – https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland. These estimates are useful for service planning, as they are available by gender / single years of age and can be aggregated to fit other geographic areas. These have been used to estimate the population of the smaller villages and hamlets in Shropshire where no Census data is available.


The benefit of the 3,195 estimate is that it is more up-to-date than the Census and is informed by actual dwelling completions.

Have they not read the paragraph that precedes this?

I hope this is of help. Please let me know if you require further information.

Kind regards


Planning and Demographic Specialist Performance, Policy and Intelligence Team, Workforce and Transformation Directorate, Shropshire Council, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, SY2 6ND

It was lovely of her to take so much time and effort to explain, even if it did miss the whole point of my asking how the planning department’s take on Highley’s population could be justified, given that what THEY were treating as Highley’s hinterland (the land around a settlement which relies on the services provided by that settlement) is wholly dependent on and identifies with Highley, in other words their place of residence and lifestyle activities identifying themselves as inhabitants of Highley, a perception confirmed by their appearance on the Electoral Register for Highley, their appearance establishing a presence only a planner with their own agenda would even attempt to deny.

A look at the maps that accompanied that reply will explain.

Highley is Highley, it is what it says on the tin. I am the elected Member for the Highley Electoral Division of Shropshire Council, I am responsible for the area bounded by the blue border of ‘Highley Electoral Ward’, it’s a distinction peculiar to Highley. Highley Parish is the area bordered by that blue Parish boundary, Highley Parish Council (of which I’m also a member) is responsible for the area within the ‘Highley Parish’ boundary.

So what is Shropshire Council planning department’s problem?

Planning applications are sent for review by me as the Local Member and by Highley Parish Council as the administrative authority of the Highley civil parish.

So again, what is Shropshire Council planning department’s problem?

Working to Shropshire Council planning department’s master plan, between the Census Built-Up-Area Boundary – adopted as the basis for their population figure – and the Highley Parish Boundary, live 400 people who travel to shop, school, work and leisure, in fact – according to Shropshire Council planning department – to anywhere except within the Census Built-Up-Area Boundary, they therefore, allegedly, have no impact on the area within that Census Built-Up-Area Boundary.


To all intents and purposes, they are 400 people who don’t exist and have absolutely no impact – however slight – on the area that Shropshire Council considers to be the only area worthy of consideration, on which basis it is therefore wrong of me to assume that they have any physical or economic impact within the confines of the Built-Up-Area Boundary.

Still with me? Just?

Now you know how I feel when I look at the potential that Shropshire Council planning department’s interpretation of census figures will have on Highley. The following map shows that potential in the form of sites that have a very realistic chance of being adopted by Shropshire Council as potential areas of development to meet its future housing obligations.

For the benefit of anyone who doubts the devastating impact such a scenario presents for the future of the village, I have included the potential housing density (as computed by Shropshire Council) of each site as given in the site descriptions that follow this map.

HNN010 Land to the south of Redstone Drive, Highley 81

HNN013 Land at Woodhill Farm, Highley 16

HNN014 East of Bridgnorth Road, Highley 22

HNN015 West of Woodhill Road, Highley 28

HNN016 Land South of Oak Street, Highley 120

(Originally comprising: 70 dwellings and 50 extra-care apartments)

(Which we now know will have the above plus the recently

approved planning application for 20 affordable houses) 20

HNN017 Land North East of Hazelwells Road, Highley 28

HNN019 The Stables Bridgnorth Road, Highley 66

TOTAL: 381

Oh, and before I go, just to note that despite everything the local community has said…

I rest my case.

As they say in Yorkshire: ‘Think on’.