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									                                  PRESS RELEASE

                    RUSSELL’S MEADOW ACTION GROUP
                              30th March 2007

         Alternative Proposals submitted to Town and District Councils

Alternative proposals for the long-needed re-development of the informal Lutwyche
Road „car park‟ have been submitted by the Russell‟s Meadow Action Group, within
the deadline set in January by the South Shropshire District Council Executive of 31st
March 2007.

The Action Group was formed at a well-attended public meeting in January, not only
to oppose the „in principle‟ decisions on this issue by the Church Stretton Town
Council and the South Shropshire District Councils but also to identify alternative
options. The councils proposed to donate land, including the parking area and part of
the playing field, to allow the South Shropshire Housing Association to build seven
affordable homes and two market-priced houses, thereby also funding the re-provision
of the public conveniences and the creation of a formal car park, to be run by the
Town Council.

Everyone agrees this unmade parking area should be developed but local residents,
the Chamber of Trade and the local sports organisations are all vehemently opposed to
the loss of any parking capacity at this town centre site, which is also the only parking
access to the playing fields. These are held in charitable trust by the Town Council
for community recreational purposes.

Prompted by the District Council, the Town Council established a sub-committee in
late January to investigate alternative local sites for affordable housing but it
identified no privately owned land and re-affirmed its commitment to the original
proposal at the end of February.

Undeterred, the Action Group has continued to consult with all interested parties in
search of a consensus about what use of this land would best serve the widest possible
community interest. There is general agreement on six points:
    a) there is an acute need for more affordable housing for local families;
    b) Church Stretton has the poorest sports and leisure facilities in south Shropshire
       and these can best be developed behind the school, if additional land can be
       secured, but, failing that, the only remaining option are the town‟s playing
       fields;
    c) The playing field, adjacent to Robinson‟s Field, cannot currently be used for
       community recreation for most of the year because of poor drainage;
    d) There is an acute shortage of off-street parking for commuter employees in or
       near the town centre and insufficient parking for those using the playing fields;
    e) Re-provided, disability compliant, public conveniences are needed for
       shoppers, visitors and sportspeople;
    f) A coach drop-off point, near to public conveniences, is urgently needed in the
       town centre, if sustainable tourism, on which the local economy increasingly
       depends, is to be developed.

The Action Group has concluded that all of these needs can only be accommodated if
the respective Councils adopt a more strategic and inter-connected approach to land
use. This means that the planning decision in relation to the Lutwyche Road „car
park‟ cannot, and should not, be made in isolation from decisions about the future use
of the playing fields. In any event, the Action Group has established that the current
housing development proposals will be opposed not only by the Charity Commission
and by SportEngland, so alternative ways of funding the proposed car park and re-
provided public conveniences at Lutwyche Road will have to be found.

In the absence of any privately owned land being offered, the Action Group has
concluded that the most appropriate area of publicly-owned land for any housing
development is a narrow strip of Robinson‟s Field and the verge along Churchill
Road. This would offer the Housing Association the opportunity of building up to 12
affordable homes and three market-priced houses to cover the cost of re-providing the
public conveniences and car park, including a coach drop-off point at Lutwyche Road.

If desired, this option would also allow for some additional market-priced housing to
match fund the drainage of Robinson‟s Field, so that it can once again be used for
community recreation and/or sports facilities, depending upon the outcome of the land
negotiations behind the school. It is regretted that this option would involve some
loss of visual amenity for Churchill Road residents but the considerable overall
community gain achieved by this option, means that it is likely to be approved by the
Charity Commission, SportEngland and, if necessary, by the Secretary of State.

Accordingly, the report of the Russell‟s Meadow Action Group to both the Church
Stretton Town Council and the South Shropshire District Council recommends:

   a) that an urgent feasibility study is undertaken of the alternative option, outlined
      above;
   b) no formal planning applications to build houses on the Lutwyche Road „car
      park‟ are progressed until this feasibility study has been completed;
   c) the two Councils collaborate with the Joint Project Management Committee,
      developing the sport and leisure facilities behind the school, to ensure the
      integrated upgrading of these facilities, whether behind the school or on the
      playing fields, since the Committee was very favourably impressed by these
      alternative proposals and has begun investigating their feasibility.

Despite expressing an interest in this alternative option, the Housing Association has
indicated that it will shortly submit a formal planning application to build houses at
the Lutwyche Road site, purely because it risks losing its funding allocation, obtained
last autumn, prior to any outline plans being made public, which requires building to
start in July. The Action Group cannot believe that the Town and District Councils
will allow this unwanted, unsuitable and damaging development to proceed on such
specious grounds. Should any such planning application be lodged, the Action Group
will seek to mobilise maximum community opposition, until the proposed alternative
option has been properly examined.

The Action Group will be holding a public meeting on 19th April to explain these
options to the local community and to gauge the level of public support for them.
Bob Welch, Chairman of the Russell‟s Meadow Action Group confirmed: “ This is
an issue of such strategic importance to the future well-being of the town that we must
involve the whole community in the decision. We cannot allow this development
opportunity to be squandered merely to suit the administrative convenience of a
Housing Association, which appears willing to disregard totally the views and
alternatives offered by the local community.”

Bob Welch 01694 724740                   0797 080 7116
bob.welch@btinternet.com

								
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