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Gazumped Shropshire villagers may be able to buy land after deal collapses

17 May 2024

BBC

The land in Benthall, near Telford, in Shropshire

The land in Benthall, near Telford, in Shropshire

A GROUP of villagers in Shropshire who were gazumped by developers in a land sale with the Church Commissioners say that they are still prepared to make a deal.

The Commissioners’ proposed disposal of the Floyer Lane plot in Benthall, near Telford, to Boningale Homes, was valued at about £300,000 last year (News, 3 November, 2023). Villagers in neighbouring properties put their life savings together, but lost to the housing developer in a sealed-bid process.

Laura Davies co-ordinated the Floyer Lane Community Group, and told the Church Times how happy the local residents were at the collapse of the deal. “The Church Commissioners have apologised, and agreed to come back to us first should the land still be sold. We remain willing to take it on.”

At present, the land is maintained by residents and a farmer in the area. “It’s important to us that the countryside is protected. This has become such a popular spot for local expedition groups and dog-walkers. We really want to preserve that,” Mrs Davies said.

The National Trust had spoken out for the land’s ecological importance. It manages Benthall Hall, an estate which once belonged to a former Bishop of Bath & Wells and Lord Chancellor, Robert Burnell. By the time of the Reformation, it was home to a recusant family.

The Trust also manages Wenlock Edge, a limestone escarpment two miles away. Wenlock Edge was immortalised in poetry by A. E. Housman, and in music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who used a number of Housman’s Shropshire Lad poems for a song cycle.

Mrs Davies did not feel that another housing developer would step in. “There’s a distinct lack of infrastructure there; so it’s not a very suitable plot for development. Getting utilities in would be a particular problem.”

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said: “The proposed sale of the land at Hilltop Farm, Floyer Lane, Benthall, to a local developer, is no longer proceeding. As such, the Church Commissioners for England is taking time to undertake a further strategic review, and to consider next steps with regard to the future of the site.”

Boningale Homes was contacted by the Church Times, but declined to comment.

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