Towns and villages throughout our county, and vital community infrastructure such as doctor’s surgeries and schools are under increasing pressure as new housing estates are thrown up by our councils as they struggle to meet national house building targets and often approve developments against the interest and will of local residents. Communities need to grow and develop, but growth needs to be managed and sustainable. It needs to deliver benefits not just for landowners and big development companies, but also for communities and their residents. Planning authorities already have the power to do this, but we believe the power should be extended to town and parish councils to act more directly on behalf of the community and its interests.
Our key policy points:
- Development and the growth of our towns and villages should serve the interests of and benefit local communities first and foremost.
- We believe in sustainable growth, managed to match the needs and capacity of communities. New housing should accompany investment in community facilities such as improving access to GPs, green spaces and local schools.
- New housing should be diverse and targeted to meet local needs, not built to line the pockets of landowners, developers and corrupt officials. Currently most new homes in Shropshire are unaffordable for first time buyers and lower income families, often pricing people out of their own communities. The quota of affordable homes in new housing developments in Shropshire should be increased to at least 50% of new builds.
- Parish and town councils should be empowered to reject major development applications which do not fit with the needs of the community and especially where they meet significant public opposition.
- Parish and town councils should be able to secure legitimate concessions from developers, such as specific investment in local infrastructure, schools, etc. by being directly involved in and party to Section 106 agreements alongside the planning authority. These agreements must be fully enforced, and any exemptions fully scrutinised.
- During consultations on planning applications, comments submitted by parish and town councils should be given significantly higher priority and weighting, given that they are spokespersons for their entire community, and not individuals.
- Funds from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) are failing to reach local communities, unacceptably delayed in doing so or aren’t being charged at all. Shropshire Council must be more rigorous in applying the CIL and passing on funds to communities,
- Shropshire Council currently charges one of the lowest rates of CIL in England and Telford and Wrekin Council is yet to introduce CIL at all. CIL should be set at a reasonable but competitive rate.