CWAC approves local plan

Cheshire West & Chester Council has officially adopted its local development plan, after what the council described as "five long years of hard work, consultation, argument, scrutiny and debate".

A special meeting of the council on Thursday 29 January approved the framework, which will guide sustainable development in the borough until 2030.

A draft plan was submitted by the council for study in December 2013, with an examination taking place in June and July 2014. Following the hearing, planning inspector Kevin Ward recommended non-adoption unless changes were made. The changes were consulted on in September.

The plan supports the provision of 22,000 homes in the area and around 14,000 additional people in employment. The strategy is to locate most new development in Chester, Northwich, Ellesmere Port and Winsford. According to the plan, there will be "sensitive release" of green belt land to the south of Chester around Wrexham Road to allow for 1,300 homes around the city.

In Ellesmere Port, land at New Bridge Road, Hooton Park, Ince Park and Stanlow will be used to provide a varied portfolio of employment sites in the town. Although locally controversial, the council said that the allocation of the Ledsham Road site means that the green belt around the town can continue to be protected.

The focus in Northwich is to allow a greater level of development to regenerate the large number of brownfield sites in the town.

Cllr Lynda Jones, executive member for growth and innovation, told council members at the meeting: "The local plan strikes a balance between meeting our aspirations for economic growth and providing much needed new homes, whilst protecting our fantastic environment.

"The local plan inspector agrees with the council's approach and this limited change can take place without undermining the purposes of the green belt. Importantly, the local plan confirms the retention of the green belt boundary around the rest of the city.

"The local plan provides a clear strategic framework for communities to develop neighbourhood plans in the rural area and elsewhere through which they can put in place local policies to address their own local priorities.

"Two have been adopted and a further 20 are now in preparation. It is fair to say that Cheshire West and Chester is amongst a small group of councils leading the way nationally on neighbourhood planning."

The plan was passed with two votes against. A number of members expressed concern about what they felt was an included overestimate of housing demand and potential lack of control over delivery of housing supply, particularly affecting the greenbelt and around rural settlements.

Cllr Neil Sullivan was one of the votes against the plan, stating that he considered there was no need for a large housing development at Wrexham Road in Chester due to what he said was an overestimate of required housing supply for Chester.

Chester Community Voice UK in public speaking time condemned the plan for having no studentification policy for Chester.

Reg Barritt, general secretary of Chester Community Voice, said: "Even my own ward Cllr Neil Sullivan in voting against the plan abjectly failed, as was the case with all the other members on the night, to acknowledge our case set against the rapid expansion of higher education in Chester and its growing impact on housing supply and community life."

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