Cheshire East: new leader, new politics?

You may remember that Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones handed in his notice late last year, after increasing pressure about council contracts awarded to his physiotherapist. The Conservative Group has now elected Rachel Bailey, the Cabinet Member responsible for Children, Families, and the high-profile Local Plan, to succeed him later this month.

From a planning perspective, we may perhaps expect more of the same. Cllr Bailey recently said, “I want to build on what’s been achieved in relation to Alderley Park and HS2 and also build on the residents-first policy.”

Recently, many in the property and development sector will have been struck by complaints about a failure to build where permissions have been granted. Cllr Bailey was very critical of developers, accusing housebuilders of land banking, and demanding national pressure to accelerate construction. The authority has said it will write to Ministers and meet local MPs (which would include the Chancellor, George Osborne) to put pressure on the Government.

As the Cabinet member responsible for the Local Plan, Cllr Bailey will have a sound grasp of the housing need facing Cheshire East. While some developers may not like her recent comments, the Council’s apparent enthusiasm for building out approved sites should at least be welcomed, particularly where there are still reserved matters to be determined. We can be sure that the Local Plan will be as high a priority for Cllr Bailey now that she is Leader, given its media profile.

Understandably, she is unlikely to make any significant policy announcements until after the next formal meeting of the full Council in February, as only then is she expected to be voted offically as the Leader of the Council, rather than just the Leader of the Conservatives. Cllr Bailey has said her first task will be to unify the party, and, if she does this successfully, the most important thing we could see is the Council beginning to move forward, which would surely be welcomed by all those who live or work in Cheshire East.

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