Villagers vow to block 13,000-home new town bid off the M54

Villagers have spoken about their fears that a 13,000-home new town may be built around them.

People in Tong, off the M54, near Shifnal, voted to form an action group and pledged to save their homes from the threatened new development.

Tong Parish Council hosted a meeting to inform residents about Bradford Estates’ intention to build five ‘garden villages’ on green belt land in Tong.

Bradford Estates has highlighted 674 hectares of potential development land to Shropshire Council for consideration.

No planning application has yet been submitted but council chairman Paul Fisher, who met with the company behind the plans, said there would be between 10,000 and 13,000 new houses if it was to go ahead in the future.

He said: “This is not a short-term thing. It is something that will unravel for years to come. This project of 10,000 homes minimum will be done over 25 to 30 years.

“This will make Tong the third largest town in Shropshire behind Shrewsbury and Telford.”

He said it would also have an effect on neighbouring Shifnal and Albrighton.

“These garden villages are supposed to be completely self-sufficient, so will come with their own shops,” he added.

“If a superstore like Sainsbury’s comes to Tong, it will take business away from Shifnal and Albrighton.

“These shops have everything from clothes, electrical items, they sell holidays and more. It is something to think about.”

Residents also raised concerns about the extra traffic travelling through Tong, in particular Offoxey Road.

Mark Weston said: “This could mean an extra 30,000 cars. That would be similar to having V Festival every day in Tong. The people of Tong do not want this.”

Shropshire Council is putting together its new Shropshire Local Plan Review which sets out that 28,750 houses will be required before 2036. Currently 18,583 have been allocated leaving 10,347 to be found.

Bradford Estates owns substantial swathes of land in the area, taking in fields around Tong, Albrighton, Cosford and towards Weston-under-Lizard and Weston Park to the north.

A feasibility study has been launched regarding the plan and Shropshire Council has received a 157-page document from Bradford Estates.

Mr Fisher added: “The Bradford Estates plans show no respect for the residents of the parish, the green belt nor the character and historical setting of Tong.

“They would be creating an urban swathe across the countryside from Bishops Wood to Shifnal, joining up Albrighton, Donnington and Cosford on the way.”

Following the meeting residents signed up to an action group which will meet in the coming weeks to launch a social media campaign and organise fundraising events to raise money.

670 hectares considered for housing

Bradford Estates owns more than 1,600 acres of land in the area of Tong and towards the Staffordshire border around Weston Park. This is a full statement given by Steve Carey, a consultant acting on behalf of Bradford Estates:

"Bradford Estates owns around 670 hectares of land which is being assessed for its suitability for development by Shropshire Council as part of the local plan process.

"However, not all of this land will be suitable for development as any proposals would have to balance the need for development locally with protecting the setting of local Weston Park, other listed buildings and areas of interest.

"In addition, if the site were to be included in Shropshire’s Local Plan, there would be a significant amount of land given over to parks, public open spaces and woodlands in support of the garden village principles.

"Shropshire Council, in preparing its Draft Local Plan, recognised the development potential offered along the M54 corridor. The need for new homes in Shropshire is undeniable, and government targets are placing increasing demands on councils across the country. Within the M54 corridor new development is likely to be located near existing junctions and the Bradford Estates land has been identified as a potential development site.

"There are no current development proposals as we are at such an early stage.

"However, there is the potential to create a series of interlinked garden villages which a team of specialist consultants is now investigating. The team includes a specialist community engagement consultant to ensure that local residents and their representatives are kept informed of any plans as they emerge.

"We are still in the early feasibility stage but have agreed with Tong Parish Council to discuss the results of the various studies with them and local residents as soon as we have something more tangible to report. Bradford Estates is rightly proud of the local heritage associated with the estate and Weston Park and will not countenance any development that would adversely impact on the setting of important local landmarks.

"To that end, the first surveys commissioned were heritage and landscape assessments. When complete, these will identify areas where development would be inappropriate if the setting of St Bartholomew’s Church or Weston Park are to be protected.

"The parish council has reported rumours circulating about imminent gravel extraction locally. We can confirm there are no plans for gravel extraction in the near future and no planning application for gravel extraction is in preparation.

"The estate is investigating the extent of any gravel deposits locally. Should development proposals be forthcoming, then it is possible that a parallel application for some limited gravel extraction could be made. This would have the effect of reducing construction traffic locally and increase the sustainability of any future development. The minerals may also provide a local source for the proposed A41 improvement works considered in principle by Highways England."

Shropshire Council looking at plans

Building 10,000 homes on green belt land would need “extensive justification” according to a council planning chief.

Adrian Cooper, Shropshire Council’s planning policy and strategy manager, has confirmed that the authority is looking over a proposal from Bradford Estates, which could see up to 10,000 homes built on land in the Tong area.

It comes as Shropshire Council is reviewing new candidates sites for its local development plan, with the authority seeking for space for another 10,000 homes to be built in the county.

The local development plan sets out sites where development of housing or commercial property can be built.

Mr Cooper said: “Regarding proposals by the Bradford Estates for a new settlement known as Monarch’s Way in the parish of Tong, near Cosford, this project has been proposed by the Bradford Estates as part of Shropshire’s current local plan review, and planning agents for Bradford Estates have submitted a lengthy (157 pages) and detailed response to the council’s recent consultation which is still being analysed, but can be made available in due course.”

Mr Cooper said that the proposal, which would initially be for around 2,000 homes and would increase over time to 10,000, would need substantial argument to gain permission.

The official said the council had yet to take a position on the proposal.

He said: “The proposal is still at a very early stage and the council has yet to establish a clear position regarding the proposed settlement, other than to observe that development of this scale and in such a sensitive location in the Green Belt, should it proceed, would require extensive justification and analysis of a wide range of potential impacts.”

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