Decision Maker: Planning Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
This application was a change of use from former quarry to educational fieldwork centre including the erection of 3no. Iron-Age roundhouses, 1no. multi-purpose activity structure, warden’s accommodation & 5no. camping pods at Maddocks Hill and Quarry, Little Wenlock, Telford, Shropshire
An update report was tabled at the meeting and highlighted a further four representations objecting to the proposal and raised concerns regarding rewilding of the site, biodiversity habitat loss and impact on designations, ecology, drainage, use of timber from woodland, access to site for emergency services, highway access and use and the impact on the Wrekin Forest.
The Planning Officer outlined the application and informed Members that some photographs had been received from the speakers which would be displayed during the speaking slot.
Councillor J Seymour, Ward Member, had requested that the application be determined by the Planning Committee.
Councillor J Seymour, Ward Councillor spoke against the application. Although she was supportive of the project she felt that the Wrekin Strategic Landscape was not the ideal location. Concerns were raised regarding the inadequacy of the solar panels, power and water production and storage, run off for the rain water and inadequate toilet/cleaning facilities for up to 38 daily participants. In relation to Hatch Lane, further concerns were raised regarding access, traffic, antisocial behaviour, vulnerability of the site and the potential for parking issues from visitors to the Wrekin and how enforcement would take place.
Councillor H Betts spoke against the application on behalf of the Parish Council and raised concerns regarding the location of the site within the Shropshire Hills Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Wrekin Strategic Landscape. There was a long history of anti-social behaviour on Hatch Lane and he raised further concerns regarding access, rights of way and parking from visitors to the Wrekin, the lack of running water and mains electricity and housing on the site. He asked Members to refuse the application.
Mr M Fennell-Fox, member of the public, spoke against the application and raised concerns regarding the ditch, lack of culvert at the intersection of the ditch and Footpath 55 and water running down through the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the treatment of the effluent discharge, the lack of public water supply, the site being within the Strategic Landscape and the surveys in relation to wildlife which he felt were not undertaken during breeding season.
Mr E Hanlon, member of the public, raised concerns in relation to the harmful impact on wildlife and the geological sites and the lack of net gain or mitigation measures. This uninhabited area currently had no footfall and live sports, such as archery, would have an impact on biodiversity which was protected on this site. There would be disturbance on the flora and fauna and an impact on timber within the ancient woodland. The site would be operated all year round and would irreversibly change the character of the Wrekin Forest.
Mr J Salt, Applicant’s Agent spoke in favour of the application. Although he appreciated the concerns raised, which included highways, access, rights of way and the educational use, he believed that the application would not cause harm. It was an educational centre and the site would not be used for glamping or a holiday site. The site presented an ideal opportunity for ecological and geological studies. A s106 Agreement would strictly control the site. An ecological assessment had taken place and biodiversity could be achieved and species would be protected. The rights of way were not affected. Access would be upgraded and a barrier would be retained and controlled by a warden to prevent vehicular access by the public. The site would be self-sufficient using renewable energy and would be an exciting offer to celebrate the history of the area and brought benefits to the wider locality.
During the debate, some Members raised concerns regarding the water supply, shower block and toilets and the lack of cooking facilities, the safety of open fires, access to Hatch Lane and parking issues. Other Members asked the reason why Shropshire Wildlife Trust no longer raised objections to the site and raised further concerns regarding the health and safety of the site and access to the site for emergency vehicles, the instability and safety of the slopes, lack of drainage and electricity and that although they supported the application they felt this was the wrong site. Questions were raised as to how they would ensure only adults were on site, how the sleeping arrangements in the pods and the arrangements for the male/female toilets would be controlled and how the delivery of food and supplies and storage of equipment would be managed. Further concerns were raised in respect of noise pollution and light pollution which could impact on the wildlife at night.
The Planning Officer informed Members that whilst he appreciated that the site was within the Wrekin Strategic Landscape a s106 had been agreed and the site would be controlled through conditions and there were no technical objections or grounds to refuse the application. Emergency access for fire appliances was addressed in the update report with a condition that a charged static tank of water be provided in agreement with Shropshire Fire Authority. A separate tank for drinking water would be required. In relation to Shropshire Wildlife Trust, a request came forward for Dingy Skipper Butterflies and Peregrine Falcons reports and the Council’s Ecologist was satisfied that a biodiversity enhancement plan could be conditioned. The right of way on the existing footpath would be modified to become a bridleway. In relation to safety of the base of the slopes, a slope stability appraisal report had been undertaken, with recommendations for fences to protect the area from falling debris and this be conditions to be inspected every six months. The lack of a power source would not be a reason to refuse and Members would have to take on face value that the electricity produced would be what was used. In relation to the gender split of the pods and the facilities this was not a planning consideration. Highways were satisfied with vehicular movements to the site and passing places along the track would be provided. An enhanced ecological plan would be required detailing the lighting in order that it did not impact bat migration. Permitted development rights allowed for camping on the land and it was felt that would have a similar impact to the application. Control of the occupants on site would form part of the s106 Agreement but the management of the site and its opening times was an operational choice and not a planning consideration. If the warden left the site there would be two to four tutors on site if students were present.
On being put to the vote it was, by a majority:
RESOLVED – that delegated authority be granted to the Development Management Service Delivery Manager to grant planning permission
subject to the following:
a) The applicant entering into a Section 106 agreement with the Local Planning Authority, with terms to be agreed by the Development Management Service Delivery Manager, relating to:
i) The land use for the site (excluding access track) shall be for the purpose of educational use.
b) The conditions (with authority to finalise conditions and reasons for approval to be delegated to Development Management Service Delivery Manager) contained in the report and the update report.
Publication date: 15/03/2023
Date of decision: 15/03/2023
Decided at meeting: 15/03/2023 - Planning Committee