Cheshire scheme set for planning showdown

AM Bell’s plans to build small-scale industrial units at its Hawkshead Quarry site in Sutton have been recommended for refusal on grounds set out in Cheshire East’s Local Plan – but may be backed by national guidelines.

The local authority’s northern planning committee is due to consider the proposal at its meeting on 2 December. The site is not Green Belt, but is classed as open countryside, where the Local Plan rules out most new development.

AM Bell is a family haulage business that has been operating from the borough for more than 75 years. It bought and moved to the former stone quarry in 1972, and has managed it as a heavy industrial/haulage park since. The site lies three miles south of Macclesfield.

Acting for AM Bell (Properties), Emery Planning has submitted a hybrid application, seeking 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. In all, 31,000 sq ft could be built. The scheme is designed by Barnes Walker.

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

While officers accept that the project will bring some jobs to the area, their report concludes that in their view, the proposals do not represent sustainable development: “The application site is located outside of any designated centre in the CELPS where new employment development is directed towards.

“It is located in the open countryside with poor access to means of transport other than a car. The proposed development is not identified as one of the exceptions of development types permitted in the open countryside.”

However, the applicant’s argument is that the project represents redevelopment of previously developed land that will support the rural economy, and thus would be supported by National Planning Policy Framework guidelines, trumping the Local Plan.

Sutton Parish Council is supportive of the scheme, the impact of which is to be mitigated against by the introduction of additional landscape works and biodiversity measures.

Following notice of the recommendation to refuse, Emery has sent a letter to committee members, setting out concerns over the recommendation. These include the omission of relevant applications from the sites’ planning history, a “significant shift in the council’s position since consideration of a pre-application enquiry” and failure to assess the proposals properly under the national framework’s rural business section.

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