The decision to give the go-ahead for a scheme of 44 houses has sparked outrage among residents and town council, who claim it rides roughshod over the community-backed NDP.
Ross resident James Mason expressed shock at the council's logo adorning the entrance to the development site. He questioned who would ensure safety with the imminent influx of heavy lorries and machinery near Ashfield school. With the "pictures painting a thousand words", the public sentiment is clear: they feel betrayed and unheard.
The planning decision to allow the Fortis Housing Association to build more than 40 new homes near Archenfield Road had been met with stiff resistance over the past few years. The original proposal had already been met with more than 200 signatures on petitions and 70 objection letters. The decision to overturn the initial plan had drawn formal complaints from the Ross-on-Wye Town Council, among others.
Phil Angus, a spokesperson for local residents opposing the application, said he was astounded that valid concerns such as poor drainage, traffic congestion, and the location within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) were largely disregarded by the inspector. He blamed the government's directive to 'build, build, build', which he believes outweighs the local community's concerns.
The Ross-on-Wye NDP, which was shortlisted for a Royal Town Planning Institute West Midlands Award and received a Commendation, had initially limited the Stoney Stile development to 15 dwellings. The plan was created with extensive consultation and was endorsed by Ross-on-Wye residents. It considered a variety of factors, including the need for houses - including affordable homes - allotments, economic employment, climate change, design, open spaces, and play facilities. The decision to expand the development was based on a single issue: affordable homes.
Planning Inspector Philip Major justified his decision to approve the expanded scheme by highlighting the significant number of affordable homes it would provide. He also dismissed traffic safety concerns, stating that a suitable scheme of highways design could likely preclude any unacceptable harm to safety.
However, residents and the town council argue that the inspector's decision disregards the town's already exceeding new housing quota and the NDP's vision for the future of Ross-on-Wye. As the dust continues to rise on the construction site, so does the discontent among the residents of Ross-on-Wye, adding another chapter to the ongoing saga of development disputes across the UK.