Cheshire East fights ‘unprecedented volume of housing plans’

Cheshire East Council has set out a plan of action to counteract new residential development in 'cherished areas' and will challenge a decision by Eric Pickles to grant planning permission to farm owners to build 200 homes on the outskirts of Congleton.

The council's planning committee refused the application by the Dale family in July 2011 for the 42-acre development at Loachbrook Farm, on Sandbach Road. But the Communities Secretary, on the recommendation of Planning Inspector Andrew Jeyes, overturned Cheshire East's decision in August 2012.

Planning consultancy Hourigan Connolly advises the Dale family and declined to comment.

The council is now to pursue a legal challenge to the government's decision, claiming the development proposal was "unsuitable, posed a threat to the landscape, was an unsustainable development and that more suitable sites were available elsewhere."

Cllr Michael JonesCllr Michael Jones, Conservative leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "Our towns and villages are under siege from an unprecedented onslaught of unplanned development proposals. As an authority we are also saddled with unrealistic housing targets from an unaccountable regional planning system.

"Cheshire East Council recognises this legal action will cost money – but I believe we have no choice but to challenge this ruling.

"When an inspector supports the heart of the Council's case and acknowledges that the proposal would locally harm the character and appearance of this area of countryside, contrary to the development plan, but then says 'this is outweighed by the need to secure a five-year supply of deliverable housing land' – I find this perverse.

"I find it perverse that we grant permission for over 1,800 homes in one year but find that only 700 or so get built the next. It is further perverse that, while we are forming our Local Plan, the floodgates are opened so irresponsibly by a planning inspector. This could seriously undermine Sandbach, Crewe and Nantwich.

"This is particularly worrying when there are inconsistencies in decisions being made by the planning inspectorate.

"It is a challenge during the toughest, deepest, most austere housing market seen in history and when building rates are so thoroughly depressed, for any Council to be sure of providing five years of truly-deliverable land. So I find this decision perverse.

"Cheshire East stands in the most beautiful countryside, I believe, in the North West of England and we will not sit back and allow this to be eroded without a fight.

"We know that Cheshire East needs more houses. But I want to encourage planned, sustainable development with sufficient infrastructure in place (schools, roads, medical services) and local buy-in. Any change to our greenbelt or green gaps must be supported locally and to a minimum.

"Let me be clear: we want and need growth to ensure our future prosperity.

"But we need to ensure developments are planned properly after listening to local people – and that they reinforce, rather than undermine, our Local Plan, based on a vision that we can all agree.

"This legal action is necessary to help ensure a greener and more civilised future for all our towns – and Cheshire East Council will fight, using Council Tax payers' money, to protect you, the people of Cheshire East, and your families."

The council will set up an action plan "to counteract the unprecedentedly-high volume of planning applications for housing".

The council's actions include, in its own words:

  • Produce a new Local Plan in a thorough but timely fashion that will promote the growth we need while protecting the areas we cherish
  • Lobby Government ministers to ensure the National Planning Policy Framework is interpreted properly at planning appeals with greater emphasis on sustainable development
  • Request that the Planning Inspectorate support Cheshire East Council's policy of plan-led and sustainable development
  • Work with the construction industry to boost home building on sites that are already accepted for development – and explore penalties for those who simply 'bank' land rather than build on it.

Your Comments

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Am I understanding this correctly? Cheshire East will be using public money to block proposals that will create homes, jobs and activity. Thank you cheshire east.

By what?

Sounds like they are sensibly trying to prevent the wrong types of homes being built in the wrong place rather than put a stop to any kind of development. As usual with this sort of development, the social and economic costs are borne by the public in terms of funding the necessary improvements to the infrastructure and loss of amenity, whilst the builder makes large profits churning out a substandard product, in small quantities on an unsuitable and unsustainable site. Same old story – privatise the profit, socialise the cost. On that basis, the Council’s actions seem prudent.

By Eric Pickled

So, who is actually in charge of the county?

By Harry Smedley

Please tell me Mr Jones how long has this country had a local plan led system? How long has it been a pre-requisite that the council maintains a five year supply of housing land? How long did Macclesfield, Congleton and Crewe and Nantwich have to allocate sufficient land for housing in their repective Local Plans? and how long has Cheshire East been saying "don’t worry Crewe can accomodate all our housing needs for the future."? Now you want more time to prepare a new local plan? Laughable!

By John Gummered

It seems to me that this is exactly what the local council should be doing. Yes, the Government may have said that we should have a 5 year housing supply. I assume that Cheshire East is in a similar fix to Cheshire West & Chester. All the precursor councils did have local plans which did get updated. But central government, by its insistence first on unitary authorities and then its abandonment of the regional strategy arrangements, caused sclerosis in updating the demand data. As a consequence, this is now based on massively out of date population estimates (in CWAC’s case they rely on figures from 2000-2002, rather than using the 2012 ONS data). They also largely ignore land for which permission has been granted but work not started – in many cases, developers are simply ‘land-banking’ for the future whilst taking productive farmland out of use (see today’s headlines about food prices). Shortfalls from one period are rolled over to the next and therefore double counted. And the houses will only be built at the rate at which they can be sold – so until the banking/ mortgage situation is sorted out, allocating more land to houses will not improve the situation. I hope Cheshire East wins its case………

By Earl Merton

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