The local authority’s leader and cabinet planning head have issued an open letter to the Secretary of State strongly criticising his decision to grant a planning appeal in the borough.
Cheshire East has formally written to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, expressing its dismay at his ruling in favour of Muller Property Group’s proposals for a mixed-use scheme in Stapeley, near Nantwich.
Muller’s scheme, first proposed in 2012 and subsequently reworked in 2017, includes up to 189 homes, local centre shopping, a primary school, village green and 40,000 sq ft of commercial space.
The local authority believes that, with a Local Plan and neighbourhood plans in place, it has been a victim of the Government’s national housebuilding drive.
In the letter, leader Cllr Sam Corcoran and cabinet member for planning Toni Fox said: “Cheshire East has embraced the need to deliver appropriate level of housing across the borough with a Local Plan target of 36,000 homes over the plan period to 2030 – which is well over household projections for the area.
“For the last two years, Cheshire East has seen more than 3,000 housing completions – the highest figures ever recorded in Cheshire East. It puts the borough among the highest-performing councils for housebuilding investment.
“This council has a very robust housing land supply and is on target to deliver that housing in a planned and sustainable manner by also bringing forward the delivery of supporting infrastructure in accordance with our adopted Local Plan Strategy.
“We are, therefore, dismayed by your decision to allow the planning appeal at Stapeley, despite the clear conflict with development plan policies on the grounds that it delivers more housing.
“Many thousands of Cheshire East residents have engaged in the Local Plan process over many years and have also been involved in the development of more than 30 neighbourhood plans across the borough. Your decision to place such significant weight on the delivery of housing undermines the principles of effective plan making.
“It will leave many, particularly around Nantwich, to question why they bothered. The decision flies in the face of the government’s stated commitment to a plan-led system.
“Cheshire East is an area promoting substantial plan-led growth, yet it is still vulnerable to unplanned, speculative housing development. The public’s confidence that up-to-date plans provide certainty as to what development they will see take place in their local area has taken a significant blow.
“Your decision will inevitably have further consequences and will likely lead to a further scramble for developers to seek permission for other unplanned sites.
“This will not only cause further disquiet for residents but also risks diverting valuable resources away from making progress on allocated site applications, causing delay to the very sites which would be able to deliver housing in a timely manner. It is notable that it will be 10 years from application submission for this site to actually deliver any beneficial housing.”
Although putting on record its anger over this issue, the council has said that it has been advised that any appeal is pointless, with no basis for appeal left open by the ruling.
Alsager-headquartered Muller, which bills the project as Nantwich South, has also struggled to win Cheshire East round with its plans for a mixed-use scheme in Sandbach, refused for a third time this February.