Thank you for taking the time to respond to my housing survey. I have been blown away by the feedback.
Apologies for the delay in sending you the results. The feedback has been great and given me a few extra headaches collating the data. Both sets of elections in May meant a further delay. This was then delayed again by the massive influx of new members joining the Liberal Democrats nationally and in North Shropshire – we have grown by over 140% in the constituency since the beginning of May 2019. As the local party chair that has kept me very busy.
I have also waited some more for the final pieces of the jigsaw before sending the results. The first was the release of the results from Shropshire Council’s housing needs survey.
Two large elections further disrupted my plans. This year started with a planned Focus for February. Following the Coronavirus outbreak, after several dozen re-edits, I suspended campaigning across North Shropshire and the leaflets were abandoned.
After this somewhat protracted process, I wanted to share them with you first. It is fair to say the overall feedback in the parish wasn’t a surprise.
Here are the Housing Survey results for West Felton, the overall results for Whittington Division, an update on the process and where we go from here
Here are the highlights for West Felton:
100% of the responses wanted West Felton to remain as Open Countryside.
All respondents want West Felton to have a conservation area to further protect the village
The need for Bungalows was higher than overall
3 Bedroom properties were the clear preference
Respondents want to see lower housing growth than the 65 Shirehall is pushing
Analysis: For West Felton it is very clear that residents don't want the village to become a Hub
In 2005 a parish survey of residents concluded that “More affordable housing but not more than 20 dwellings” were needed. They also found that “45% of responses said less than 10.“
In 2013/14 a parish survey found that 89% wanted West Felton to be classified as ‘Open Countryside’. Despite all of this the Parish Council voted to become a Community Hub and accept greater open market housing growth. A hub means housing development will be directed towards the village rather than the surrounding hamlets and Open Countryside.
We have already seen planning applications for additional housing that will be harder to prevent because of this change in policy. Whilst not yet policy, the decision to become a Hub will be treated as ’emerging policy’. Becoming a hub significantly weakens our hand to defend against inappropriate development in the village. If we had a conservation area or areas it would also give us more control over development and improve our chances of fending off inappropriate development. I will expand on conservation areas in a minute.
It would have been far better for the parish to remain as Open Countryside. That way, every housing site would have been an ‘Exception Site’. Exception in this case meaning that the need for the development would be so exceptional that it would be permitted as an exception to agreed policy. This in practice means that the parish council and the local community as a whole would have far greater control of what was built, how they were built, and included affordable homes to rent and buy. Affordable housing isn’t just about cheap social housing. It is about making sure people who grow up here can remain here if they want to. Affordability equally applies to people who buy their first house, move up the property ladder or who want to downsize when they are older. This is especially true in Shropshire where average house prices are far removed from the average wage.
Promoting development through ‘Exception sites’ is driven more by need and quality. Shropshire Council’s approach to planning is development-led and only has very limited scope to address local needs. House that get built are general what the developer wants. Exception sites could potentially have an element of Open Market housing within them. It is about sustainable growth that supports the facilities and infrastructure we have. It is no good building hundreds of new houses without sufficient upfront investment in the infrastructure need to cope with the growth. Community Led Housing is an option on exception sites. They are schemes that the local community run. CLH schemes aren’t run Shropshire Council or even West Felton Parish Council. They are entirely run by the community and are driven by what the community needs. I have asked for CLH to be considered at the Parish Council and we are inviting the CLH team at Shirehall to come to a meeting in the near future.
Promoting development through ‘Exception sites’ is driven more by need and quality. Exception sites could potentially have an element of Open Market housing within them. It is about sustainable growth that supports the facilities and infrastructure we have. It is no good building hundreds of new houses without sufficient upfront investment in the infrastructure need to cope with the growth. Community Led Housing is an option on exception sites. They are schemes that the local community run. CLH schemes aren’t run Shropshire Council or even West Felton Parish Council. They are entirely run by the community and are driven by what the community needs. I have asked for CLH to be considered at the Parish Council and we are inviting the CLH team at Shirehall to come to a meeting in the near future.
West Felton respondents would like to see Conservation Areas used to protect the Character of the Village as it grows.
In the current parish plan – currently being reviewed by West Felton Parish Council – some residents expressed a desire to see a village centre created. The development at Ralph’s Drive provided an opportunity develop a new village centre, to move the shop and improve safety at The Cross. This has now stalled. The recent application in the village to the west of the by-pass has again highlighted how West Felton could be further protected if it had a Conservation area. The only protected area at present is the scheduled monument at The Mound.
In a conservation area some things, that would ordinarily be ‘permitted development’, would require planning permission. Any proposed redevelopment or new building must actively enhance or preserve the character or appearance of the conservation area. They can play an important role in ensuring that otherwise random, ad-hoc development is harmonious with the character of the village. The older parts of the village could benefit from extra protection.
I have asked that the Parish Council begins exploring the creation of one or more Conservation areas. Potentially one in the old part of the village and one at The Cross. Shropshire Council are open to the suggestion. They have suggested Kinnerley as a good example to follow.
At the Parish Council’s March meeting the former Head of Shropshire Council Historic Environment intends voluntarily to compile an Appraisal report to demonstrate the merits of part of West Felton. Some members of the Parish Council had been operating on the assumption that we had a conservation area. Initial discussions were never proceeded with – a very significant oversight but the Council in my view. We learned that she regarded West Felton missing out on getting a Conservation Area in the 80s as a missed opportunity. This was our last meeting before Coronavirus lockdown. The Parish Council is aiming to be having online meetings in time for the May meeting.
Shropshire Council's Housing Needs survey has been published
I attended a meeting at Shirehall to discuss the findings of the Housing Needs survey that Shropshire Council organised.
West Felton Housing survey by Shirehall’s Right Home Right Place Team
Other reports can also be seen at https://www.righthomerightplace.co.uk/
Of the responses:
68% were home owners; 21% said they needed a Bungalow; 3 (13%) and 2 (12%) bedroom properties coming out on top; with 69% not intending to move any time soon.
It is reassuring that some of the figures back the responses in my own survey. However, I do have some issues with their survey. In particular the questions they used to assess housing need in West Felton. I don’t think they have asked the right questions. It is arguable that their survey has only established the short-term need of people already planning to move. Some of the responses could be considered aspirational need rather than based on pure need. Instead they should have been trying to understand latent need more. It is more important to understand the need of those prevented from moving through a lack of supply. In some cases they probably hadn’t even considering moving for that reason.
This survey will become part of the evidence base in the revised Parish Plan. It will help Shropshire Planners decide future housing targets and need. This is a big gripe for me. The survey should have been undertaken long before the local plan review took place. Definitely a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
From the meeting it was confirmed that any site considered but not allocated this time, could come back as an exception site, if it that had been graded as having “long-term potential”. There are four such sites in West Felton (as identified on my Housing Survey). For these site it still remains to be seen if they get added into the local plan after appeal/challenge. They may yet get allocated in the next review. Or indeed they can be added in the horse-trading as allocations are revised. For example another parish may have objected to their allocation. Those houses would get reallocated to adjoining parishes.
What happens next?
The draft Local Plan is now in its production stage. The completed plan is expected to be ready by the end of Spring. It is running behind. Shortage of staff and a large response I imagine. It should have been out by the end of 2019. The plan will then be formally consulted on before being examined by a Government planning inspector. The schedule was published by Shropshire Council in May last year:
Publication of the Pre-Submission draft Plan was set to happen in March 2020 and then delayed until May 2020. Thanks to Coronavirus this has been delayed again until July 2020. There will be a consultation between July and September. Cabinet and Council will adopt the pre-submission in December with submission to the Secretary of State and examination set for early 2021.
The planning Inspector could take a year to finalise and for any changes to be recommended.
Shropshire Council had set October 2021 as the target date for adopting the inspected and amended plan. This has now been pushed back to 2022.
The damage has been done with respect to the Parish Council’s vote to become a hub. However, I have not yet lost hope of removing hub status. It isn’t as simple as the PC withdrawing their support but I will push for this. The focus needs to turn to objecting to the final consultation Pre-Submission draft Plan. Further objections can be raised with the planning inspector during their inspection of the plan.
I intend to send out an email Newsletter to residents with regular updates on this and other issues of interest. I will of course also be putting this into a Focus leaflet nearer the time.
Once again I would like to thank you for taking the time to fill in my Housing Survey. I will be acting on the comments I have received. If you have any further views on this or any other issue I would love to receive them.uly
Overall results for Whittington Division:
75.7% said too many houses since 2011
Overall mix got a rating of 4.5 out of 10.
0 and 7 out of 10 scored the highest but the overall balance of distribution was just towards the mix of housing not meeting needs of area.
4.5 out of 10 being the centre of the Normal Distribution.