Cheshire quarry plan heads upstairs

The hopes of Cheshire company AM Bell to build 31,000 sq ft of small business units at its base three miles south of Macclesfield remain alive after a lengthy debate at local planning committee.

Although planning officers had recommended refusal for the Hawkshead Quarry proposal, the applicant headed to committee with the belief that national planning policy would support it. It has now secured from Cheshire East Council’s northern area committee a recommendation to approve, that will now be referred up to the local authority’s strategic planning board.

Advised by Emery Planning, AM Bell – a long-established local haulage business – submitted a hybrid application for its site, which is split over two levels at a former quarry. The company sought full permission for the development of the upper quarry area with eight small industrial/storage units; and outline consent for 13 units on the lower quarry site. The scheme is designed by Barnes Walker.

At present, there are no buildings on the upper site, largely an area of hardstanding accessed from a country lane. The lower site, accessed from the Leek Old Road, houses five buildings at present.

Planning officers had recommended refusal, stating that the proposal did not accord with Cheshire East’s hard-fought-for Local Plan: arguing that as it is only realistically accessible by car, the open countryside site does not represent sustainable development.

Emery Planning had responded to that with a letter to committee members that in its view, the National Planning Policy Framework’s support for rural business should win out, particularly as the site is already developed, being used largely by HGVs.

Ward councillor Cllr Andrew Gregory spoke at committee in support of the plan, stating that “if we can get fewer HGVs on these country lanes, and bring more employment to the Sutton area, that has to be a good thing”. Cllr Lesley Smetham spoke against the proposals.

Much of the debate centred on how the scheme could be encouraged, with conditions attached around environmental issues, access and the type of vehicles allowed on site.

When it came to the vote, the verdict was nine in favour of approval and two against, with one abstention.

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