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Objection to Ellesmere canalside plans

Story from: www.shropshirestar.com

Plans to build a giant leisure complex alongside a canal in Shropshire would transform the area into a "semi-urban" stretch, have serious knock-on effects, and be "detrimental" to nearby heritage sites, a national waterways organisation has warned.

The Inland Waterways Association, which campaigns for the conservation, maintenance, use and sensitive development of Britain's canals and rivers, has objected to plans to build a 200-berth marina, hotel, restaurant and holiday cabin on a site south of Canal Way in Ellesmere.

The outline application, which could create more than 100 job, has already been welcomed by many in the town who believe it will boost business .

But Peter Brown, heritage and planning officer for the Shrewsbury and north Wales branch of the association, said: "It is a particularly pretty area of the Llangollen Canal, it would be a shame.

"It wouldn't make it urban with houses on the canal front as such, but it would take away the rural aspects of the canal and turn in into a semi-urban stretch.

"The objection is really based on two parts. First of all, we do not actually need a marina in Ellesmere.

"It would really increase traffic and put pressure on places further up the canal.

"The locks at New Marton are the busiest narrow locks in the country and we've known delays to be up to three hours sometimes and it could make it even worse."

But Mr Brown said the plans could also have an effect on the nearby Ellesmere Yard, home to 19th century preserved Grade II listed buildings including a blacksmith’s and joiner’s shop, dry dock, yard manager’s house and Beech House the former head offices of the Ellesmere Canal Company.

He said: "We have the best canal yard in the country and the plans are to build a two or three-storey hotel in front of it.

"But this kind of site shouldn't have a big hotel block virtually opposite, it would be much better if this end of the site was a public open space.

"The objection isn't the principle of the development, but more the details."

In a statement posted on the Shropshire Council website, Mr Brown said that he believed the Canal and River Trust (CRT) may not be supportive of increasing public access to the yard through the use of a canal bridge.

He said: "In our opinion, a special feature of this group of buildings is that it is still a working depot, giving it a life and vibrancy that some other historic CRT depots do not have. Also, we would not have thought that CRT would welcome general public access to it."

But a statement from Nigel Thorns Planning Consultancy said that the scheme could "provide a link between the town centre and the canal" which would "regenerate and promote the areas between".

The scheme has received the full support of Ellesmere Town Council, which became public 18 months ago with detailed plans having been released recently.

Of the 250 homes proposed for the site, 25 of these will be affordable and planners say there will be a lot of green and open spaces.

The site has been promoted as part of Shropshire Council’s Site Allocation and Management Development plan (SAMDev), which seeks to guide all new development in the county until 2026.