Council set to reject Macclesfield rugby club redevelopment

Proposals by Macclesfield Rugby Club and Jones Homes to redevelop its facilities and build 76 homes on club land could be rejected by Cheshire East Council after the scheme was recommended for refusal by planning officers.

The rugby club has been based at its 30-acre site at Priory Park since the 1980s, and the club has argued its current facilities are “outdated and in need of investment”. These include a 7,800 sq ft clubhouse; three full-sized grass pitches, one of which is floodlit; and an artificial 3G pitch.

MRUFC had looked at other options, including relocating to be based at Macclesfield Town Football Club’s Moss Rose stadium, but decided the redevelopment of its current site for housing to enable investment in new facilities was “the only viable option”.

The proposals by Jones Homes is for 76 houses on part of the site, including 30 two and three-bed mews properties; 36 four and five-bed detached homes; alongside one apartment and six bungalows.

This development would help support the construction of expanded and improved facilities for the rugby club. A new-build 12,500 sq ft clubhouse would replace existing facilities and would feature a gym, bar, offices, and medical room; while there would be three additional sports pitches.

A planning application was submitted in December 2016, and although planning documents admit the development would be contrary to local policy given its location on green belt land, the proposal had demonstrated “very special circumstances” to allow the scheme to go ahead.

In a statement to Place North West, Emery Planning director Rawdon Gascoigne said: “The new clubhouse and pitches would secure the future of the club in terms of addressing deficiencies in the existing facilities and provide significant upgrades that meet the council’s own objectives within its playing pitches strategy and the needs of the community.

“The significant benefits that would be delivered through this proposal, including first class sporting facilities for the community and preventing the real threat of the club no longer being viable in its current form in the near future, the positives far outweigh any perceived harm to the green belt and very special circumstances have been demonstrated to allow approval of the proposals.”

A Section 106 agreement outlined by the council would have included a £225,000 provision towards education; £50,000 each towards public open space and highways improvements; and £48,000 towards an air quality improvement package.

The application had been supported by some local residents, and sports body England Rugby, which said the proposals would have allowed the club to “diversify and grow its rugby offer to the local schools and community”.

However, the project is set to be rejected after planning officers recommended it for refusal when Cheshire East’s strategic planning board meets next week.

Planners argued the case put forward for very special circumstances did not “outweigh the harm to green belt” and that the proposals did not “represent a sustainable form of development”. The planners’ main objections are towards the impact on the openness of the green belt and the “inappropriateness” of the development in a green belt site.

The report concluded: “The proposed pavilion building would be materially larger than the building it replaces, the proposal will introduce a significant increase in hardstanding resulting in encroachment of built development and the housing proposal is an inappropriate form of development within the green belt by definition”.

The report to the council also added Jones Homes’ proposals were “not fully policy compliant in terms of obligations, namely affordable housing”. The scheme is only slated to provide eight affordable homes. However, the council’s advisors Keppie Massie and WYG said the development would not be “sufficiently viable” to support a policy-compliant level of affordable housing.

Cheshire East’s strategic planning board will discuss the proposals on 31 January.

Jones Homes was approached for comment.

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