A planning inspector has backed Cheshire East’s Local Plan for shaping development in the borough up to 2030, bringing examination to a close and ensuring formal adoption of the plan is only weeks away.
Subject to a number of modifications, which have already been published and consulted on by the council, planning inspector Stephen Pratt has declared the plan sound.
The plan includes provision for a housing requirement of at least 36,000 new homes and 939 acres of development land. The inspector endorsed each of the 60-plus strategic sites within the Local Plan, including the proposed North Cheshire Garden Village at Handforth.
The document has been four years in the making, the last three of which have been spent receiving public comments and submissions on the council’s proposed strategic blueprint.
The council can now move ahead with the document’s formal adoption. Importantly, Pratt’s report says the Local Plan will secure ‘at least’ a five-year supply of housing land – an issue that has brought the council into conflict with developers, in one case leading to the highest court in the land.
Cllr Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing and planning at Cheshire East, said: “The Local Plan is the council’s most important tool for shaping development in Cheshire East to 2030, so this is great news.
“The inspector acknowledged that our Local Plan was one of the most complex and consulted upon he had seen in his more than 20 years’ experience. His report shows that any shortcomings identified in the process have now been rectified and, with the published modifications, the Local Plan now has a clean bill of health.”
Gary Halman, managing partner of HOW Planning, appeared on behalf of key landholders including Tatton Estate, Manchester Science Partnerships/Bruntwood and Royal London at the examination. He said:
“It’s excellent that this long process is almost over and that Cheshire East will finally have an up to date Local Plan in place in July. ‘Planning by appeal’ is not good for developers or local communities, both of whom want certainty.
“The key challenge now will be delivery. The new annual housing targets are ambitious, and the Inspector notes this will require a real focus to ensure build rates meet expectations. Key amongst this is land supply, and the allocated sites will need to be brought forward in a timely way. This will require the council to step up a gear in terms of resourcing its planning and related functions.”
The plan was originally submitted to the Secretary of State in May 2014, and since then additional and amended sites have been factored in as growth targets have been adjusted upwards. In total, it went through 13 rounds of public consultation, with the council receiving more than 60,000 comments.