Inquiry to hear housing land supply claims

A planning inquiry is set to hear claims that Cheshire East Council cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing.

A ruling in favour of property developers challenging the council could lead to hundreds of homes being built on land in the borough that council members would be likely to consider unsuitable.

Developments refused planning permission are often granted consent by the Planning Inspectorate if councils cannot meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, which stipulates that a council must be able to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing.

Place North West understands that the council has been informed by local developers that they wish to dispute its revised Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, which suggests a 7.1 year supply of housing land.

It is understood that as many as 15 developers want to challenge Cheshire East's SHLAA, some of them competing for the same sites.

Those sites include:

  • Abbeyfields, Sandbach
  • Congleton Road, Sandbach
  • Sandbach Road North, Alsager
  • Gresty Green Road and Crewe Road, Shavington
  • Crewe Road, Crewe
  • Elworth Hall Farm, Elworth
  • Hassall Road, Alsager
  • Audlem Road, Hankelow
  • The Moorings and Goldfinch Close/Kestrel Close, Congleton
  • Gresty Green Road, Shavington

All the claims are set to be heard at a merged inquiry beginning on Tuesday 16 July. The inquiry was originally called in relation to claims made by Taylor Wimpey and Seddon Homes.

A number of developers have proposed building houses on greenfield land within Cheshire East previously designated as unsuitable for new homes in order to protect the visible borders of villages in the area.

As previously reported, Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Michael Jones revealed his opposition to schemes forming part of the local plan development consultation exercise during a parish council meeting in Wistaston, near Crewe.

Place North West is awaiting a comment from Cheshire East Council.

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Developers may claim that Cheshire East can’t demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing but it’s a moot point whether the area is so very short of houses anyway. The Borough arrived at its estimated housing requirement figure by using an exaggerated growth prediction. It is unlikely to be reached unless the economy improves beyond all expectation or likelihood over the period of the Local Plan. It certainly won’t be reached in the first five years or even the first ten. Or do these developers know something that is hidden from the likes of the IMF or the Governor of the Bank of England? Is there a shortage of land? If they are so desperate, why don’t they build on the designated sites? They don’t want to do that. Why don’t they build on brown field sites? They don’t want to do that, either. This is nothing but a cynical ploy to persuade the Inspectorate to release large tracts of land that they do want to build on. These builders are sitting on existing permissions and are only interested in jacking up their profits. That’s why they apply for permissions on areas which are beauty spots because building on these allows them to charge more for the houses. They treat the Local Authority and the local people with contempt and pay sneering lip-service to public consultation. This is what we want to do and we are going to do it whether you like it or not, because we must be right: that’s what they mean by consultation. In my opinion, this is sharp practice and the construction trade would benefit from a course in ethics. Perfectly good farming land and beautiful countryside is set to disappear under the dreadful housing that characterises this kind of greedy opportunism. The farming and tourism that underpins the local economy is threatened and the communities have to dig deeper into their pockets to foot the bill that arrives with unwanted development in the wrong place. Are they building the kind of housing that was identified as needed in our Local Plan? Don’t be so silly. Cheshire East needs long-term jobs, schools, medical facilities and roads. Are they bringing these into the area? Well, not much sign of it yet. Is there a genuine need for more housing? It’s a highly questionable proposition. The loss of valuable industry such as Astra Zeneca means that more houses are going to appear on the market very soon. There always appears to be a supply of housing on the books of local estate agents and no shortage of long-term unused housing stock. Are the existing inhabitants of East Cheshire resentful of what many of them see as bullying and undemocratic tactics from the construction industry? That is putting it mildly and, no doubt, when election time comes round they will make their feelings felt in the usual way. Oh, by the way, I’m from Protect Congleton, the group that wants to see the NPPF amended and more time for LAs to complete their local plans. Sign up now at

By Jenny Unsworth

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