Cheshire East responds angrily to Jenrick ruling

The local authority has described as “deeply disappointing” the Secretary of State’s ruling that a mixed-use scheme proposed by Muller Property Group in Stapeley near Nantwich can go ahead, with grounds for appeal ruled out.

The 30-acre project comprises 189 homes, a 19,000 sq ft local centre retail offer, 40,000 sq ft of commercial space, a village green and primary school. Muller first sought consent for a scheme at the site in 2012, this was refused with the council then winning at appeal. Muller then brought forward a new iteration of the scheme in late 2017.

Cllr Toni Fox, portfolio holder for planning, said: “I am extremely disappointed by both the decision, and the clearly considered wording of the decision made by the Secretary of State, which has effectively blocked any opportunity for the council to lodge a legal appeal.

“The interests of local residents, supported by Cheshire East Council, have been outweighed by a national political imperative to build more houses. This decision clearly goes against the principle of local decision-making.”

By the time Muller relaunched the Stapeley plan in late 2017, it had lodged a legal challenge to Cheshire East’s Local Plan over air quality data manipulation, an affair that saw the police involved. The developer has also tussled with the council over a 20-acre scheme in Sandbach.

The decision will feel wounding for Cheshire East, which has become embroiled in disputes over the years to prove its five-year housing supply and ward off housebuilders wanting to develop in locations it deems inappropriate. After a long process, the authority finally adopted a Local Plan, allocating sites for housing, in 2017.

Despite recognition in the ruling that Cheshire East can demonstrate a five-year supply – and that local and neighbourhood plans would support refusal – Jenrick attached more weight to the Government’s drive to build more houses nationally

A council spokesman said: “The ruling recognises that the application is not in line with the development plan overall and is not in accordance with policies within the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy, the Crewe and Nantwich Replacement Local Plan and Stapeley and Batherton Neighbourhood Plan.

“However, despite this, he has assigned more significant weight to the government’s drive to build more houses in making his decision.”

“Having sought legal advice, it is with deep disappointment that we have been advised that on this occasion the Secretary of State has acted lawfully and there is no basis on which to launch a legal challenge.”

Muller was represented by Harris Lamb.

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