[Lead Image: thePipeLine]
Shropshire Council, the planning authority which will have to decide the controversial planning application to build ninety one houses within five hundred meters of the nationally important Old Oswestry hill fort, have confirmed to thePipeLine that it has not yet set a date for the planning meeting which will decide the fate of the application by Galliers Homes.
The council has also clarified the circumstances by which the latest advisory letter from heritage regulator Historic England came to be placed on the Shropshire planning portal just hours before the latest consultation regarding the planning application closed. A move which prompted criticism that such a crucial piece of advice, which campaigners claim has given the council the opportunity to green light to the application, came too late for most people and organisations responding to the planning application to be able to consider it.
A spokesperson for the council told us that the letter was recieved in the late evening of 16th April 2020.
The spokesperson then went on to describe how the response was first seen by the Case Officer to whom it was forwarded to directly via email. That officer then followed recognised Council processing for all responses to applications and forwarded the letter to Business Support Officers for publication to the relevant application website.
As such the response was published to the application website a little over 24 working hours of receiving it, the spokesperson stated.
The spokesperson also pointed out that the weekend fell in between receiving the letter on Thursday 16 April and publication the following Monday.
It was also stated that officers encountered a high volume of late representations on the application. Perhaps reflecting its controversial nature?
However, it is not clear what the volume of responses has to do with the failure to publish the Historic England letter earlier, as it might be expected that advice from a statutory body, which is potentially of crucial importance to framing the response of consultees and the decision of the councillors on the planning committee, would be prioritised by council officers.
thePipeLine also asked what arrangements Shropshire Council have made to hear planning applications during the Covid-19 emergency, including arrangements for lay persons appearing before the planning committee? A matter which is of great concern to campaigners who will want to ensure information from their own experts is laid before the planners.
The spokesperson replied,
“In response to the Covid 19 restrictions and having regard to legislative changes, officers have been investigating how to deliver virtual planning committees in Shropshire. We will also need to consider any necessary amendments to recognised procedures to facilitate this. The Council is working towards delivering a virtual planning Committee whilst current restrictions are in place.”
At the time of publication [28 April 2020] the application remains listed as Pending Consideration.