RESIDENTS and councillors face an anxious wait on the outcome of a planning appeal which could lead to the destruction of a beauty spot.
An appeal into Shropshire Council's decision to reject a planning application to develop 22 houses on land near the mere in Ellesmere was heard at a meeting at council offices in Castle View, Oswestry, on Thursday, January 16.
A large crowd gathered for the meeting to put their concerns to planning inspector, Nigel Harrison, who chaired the hearing after applicants CMS JAW Ltd submitted an appeal against the original decision.
Now campaigners will be on tenterhooks as they wait to hear the final outcome of the appeal, which should be released within four to six weeks.
It was heard that the proposed development site on Swan Hill was part of a Site Allocations and Management of Development (SAMDev) preferred options list for housing developments in Ellesmere, but steps have since been taken by the council to remove it and replace it with other options.
Councillor for Ellesmere Urban, Ann Hartley, said the site was taken out of SAMDev after residents spoke “very clearly and very loudly” in opposition to any housing development on the site.
She said: “We are very concerned that Ellesmere is a small market town only able to take so much traffic through it. We feel we have reached saturation point.”
The new SAMDev preferred options are due to go before the council's executive board for approval next month.
Ellesmere town councillor, Ian Ward, backed up those claims, adding he expected each house on the development could put an extra four cars on the town’s roads and expressed the belief that access roads on the proposed site were too narrow to cope with additional demand.
Representing CMS JAW Ltd, Philip Moran, said the visual impact the development would have on the area was “overstated and exaggerated” but accepted it would have some effect.
He said: “We feel the benefits outweigh this.”
Alex Grant, of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said: “There are concerns that surface run off from drains will adversely affect the water quality of the mere. To nibble away at the edges of the setting of the mere cannot be described as sustainable.”
Edward Bevan, chairman of Heronwatch, was concerned the development could affect nature tourism by damaging the ecology of the area around the mere.
Following the hearing, Mr Harrison conducted a site visit with council planning officers and representatives from the applicants to consider the issues raised and assist him in making a final decision.
Cllr Lynne Davies, of Ellesmere Town Council, said she was left none the wiser as to whether the council's decision would be upheld after the appeal.
She said: “Who knows? How long is a piece of string? It does put a question mark against localism if the decision is overturned.”
More than 200 comments were made against the application when it was originally made in May last year.
Residents shared concerns that the plan for 22 houses on Swan Hill would have an impact on the mere, Cremorne Gardens, and cemetery, all of which are directly adjacent to the proposed area, as well as affecting tourism.