Developers hoping to develop large sites in Cheshire could face the prospect of going back to the beginning of negotiations with planning authorities, a senior planning adviser warned on the day the Government passed new regulations to pave the way for the county to be split into two next year.
Two new unitary authorities, Cheshire East and Cheshire West & Chester, will replace Cheshire County Council and the numerous district and parish councils below it from April 2009.
Graham Stock, head planning partner at Drivers Jonas in Manchester, who advises several major housebuilders in Cheshire, said: "The impact won't be felt for some time but when it comes it could hit those developers that are playing the long game. If a developer is involved in trying to get a site adopted in the council's development framework they could see a situation where all their hard work stitching plans into the council's planning strategy is just lost.
"Planning authorities could say 'new arrangements mean there is a different emphasis'.
"Also affected could be landowners with sites that may be very significant to them but not so well-known across the county; suddenly they find themselves taking a back seat to bigger sites already known in other districts."
Andrew Watt, managing partner at Maze Planning Solutions, added: "A lot of [Cheshire district] planners and development control officers appear unwilling to take a stand or make a decision now.
"Everyone is playing it very safe in preparation for going for the same jobs in the merged authorities. They are not prepared to take a view unless somebody else has already done so. It has reduced development control to a processing box."
Local government minister John Healey said the nine new unitary councils being created across the UK will streamline and improve the delivery of local services and make savings that can be redirected to reduce council tax or fund local improvements.
Healey said: "No one underestimates the scale of the task those areas undergoing reorganisation will face over the next eight months and beyond. We in central government will continue to play our part in supporting implementation, through both legislation and helping to overcome front line challenges."