Cheshire East launches High Court housing challenge

The council is calling for a judicial review of a decision by a planning inspector to uphold an appeal by land dealer Richborough Estates to develop 170 homes in Willaston.

Richborough's planning application was the subject of a planning inquiry earlier this year. Inspector Alan Boyland granted permission on 1 August, overturning the council's refusal for the scheme, on the basis that Cheshire East could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply and, due to the many objections against it, the local plan could only be given "limited weight" as it was likely to change.

Based on what the council described as "legal advice from leading counsel", the authority has taken the view that there are sufficient grounds to justify an application to the High Court to challenge Boyland's decision.

The council's strategic planning board resolved in April that the application for the 16-acre site was unsustainable as it is located within open countryside, would result in the loss of agricultural land, and would cause a "significant erosion" of the green gap. The appeal then took place over four days in June, with the inspector making two visits to the site.

The inspector acknowledged the development would impact the view from the houses immediately next to the site, however he said "there is no right to such private views and their loss is not as such regarded as a planning consideration, even if it affects the values of the houses concerned."

Cheshire East Council argues that the planning inspector failed to understand, interpret or apply the correct approach in four areas of planning policy and housing need in relation to this particular site.

The Cheshire East local plan is currently undergoing a six-week examination process led by inspector Stephen Pratt, being held at Macclesfield Town Hall.

The local plan has repeatedly come under criticism from planning inspectors due to the lack of demonstrable five-year supply. In the last two years, Cheshire East Council has lost numerous planning appeals, where it had rejected schemes on the basis that they did not fit with the local plan. It said that the new houses were not needed in order to meet its five-year housing target. However planning inspectors have repeatedly ruled that Cheshire East will miss its target unless it increases its development pipeline.

Paul Campbell, director at Richborough Estates, said: "It is unfortunate that Cheshire East Council have challenged the decision made by the planning inspector for this development to go ahead. Throughout this application process, we have consulted carefully and closely with both the local authority and the community to meet their requirements and create only the most mutually beneficial plans.

"We are confident that the development in question will go ahead despite the challenge and deliver much needed homes and economic investment within the area."

In response to the announcement from Cheshire East, Cllr Brian Silvester, UKIP member for Willaston and Rope, said: "Local residents were seething that 146 houses had been given permission in the teeth of the unanimous opposition of local people. They felt badly let down by the broken promises and incompetence of the Cheshire East Council.

"I thought there was a clear case for going to judicial review over the Moorfields decision. In an appeal decision only a few days earlier, for land off Sydney Road Crewe, in the green gap, the appeal was rejected because of the negative impact on the green gap between Crewe and Haslington.

"In light of the Sydney Road decision, the Moorfields decision, which is also in the green gap, looked to be perverse and ripe for challenge. CEC has failed local residents on planning and this is an opportunity to try and put it right by having the planning approval reversed."

Barton Willmore advises Richborough Estates.

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