Cheshire East housing saga continues

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Cheshire East Council refused planning applications for 594 homes at the latest meeting of the Strategic Planning Board, despite a recent planning inspector report outlining problems with the area's pipeline of housing.

At the Strategic Planning Board meeting on 30 April, proposals for 594 homes across four sites were put to the council, all accompanied by a planning officer recommendation to refuse which the Councillors supported.

The proposals were rejected for a variety of reasons, including loss of agricultural land and highway difficulties. Most commonly cited was the Council's planning policy position as the sites did not fall within the designated development areas in its local plan.

The applications included plans for 200 homes at Old Mill Road in Sandbach by Muller Property Group, 150 homes on Padgbury Lane in Congleton by Northern Property Investment Group, 120 dwellings at Padgbury Lane in Congleton by Louise Williams and Kathleen Ford, and 124 homes on Broughton Road in Crewe by WCE Properties.

In April a government planning inspector overruled Cheshire East Council's rejection of a housing development in Sandbach, in a letter stating that the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites.

The planning inspector pointed out that 40% of houses assumed to be delivered within the council's proposed pipeline for the next five years do not have planning permission.

Cheshire East submitted its draft local plan to the Secretary of State last week, which defines planning policies for the area and includes site allocation and development boundaries. According to the council the plan was due to be implemented in 2013, however the current timetable shows it will not be in place until February 2015 at the earliest.

Last week Stockport Council issued its criticism of the Cheshire East local plan to the planning inspectorate, which includes questions around the level of investigation that the council had undertaken to form its decision to release some green belt land for development. Stockport Council said that there was no justification for the safeguarded land sites included in the local plan.

Planners Hourigan Connolly will be launching an appeal on behalf of the developers regarding the two Padgbury Lane sites, totalling 270 homes.

Muller Property Group is currently involved in a separate appeal against Cheshire East's ruling on a 132-home development in Alsager. An inquiry is set to go ahead in October which will be the developer's third in 12 months against the council. Colin Muller, managing director of Muller, said: "The council state that it has more than a five-year supply of housing, but this figure is fundamentally flawed. The council is continuing its smoke screen approach to calculations and has an entirely flawed evidence base. We contend that Cheshire East does not even have a three-year supply of housing.

"This authority has to own up to its dire position and wholesale lack of provision."

Dan Mitchell, partner at planner Barton Willmore, advises house builders on new applications in Cheshire. He said: "Cheshire East Council has had a decade to bring forward a local plan that deals with housing development in line with its economic intentions for the coming years.

"As that plan is now emerging the development industry has concerns as to whether it will stand up under government scrutiny. There have been a raft of recent appeal decisions that set out quite clearly the fact that Cheshire East does not have a five year land supply.

"It is disappointing that the council has not embraced a better relationship with the development industry."

No one at Cheshire East Council was available to comment.

Your Comments

Agreed that Cheshire East needs to get its act together in terms of identifying housing supply – but does that mean that developers should just be allowed to build anywhere in the meantime?

By Northern PIG

The issues of developers being able to build ‘anywhere’ lies with Mr Pickles and the stronghold of the 5 Year Supply, coupled with the presumption in favour of sustainable development, so naturally developers will be riding this wave. The anticipation that their Core Strategy is to be adopted in Feb 2015 is farcical, I await many months of CEC being sent back to the drawing board to review housing figures, and also picking up issues with regards to the Duty to Co-operate. The saga is far from over. The saga is yet to continue!

By LJA

Cheshire East a Council was only formed in 2009, it therefore has not had 10 years to do anything. Developers are only interested in profit not the impact of huge development on small market towns.

By CBM

It is not true that developers can build ‘anywhere’ – there are tests of sustainability (read the NPPF) and planning inspectors have ruled against developers in some cases. It is refreshing to see ‘some’ common sense in the planning process, alas it is not at CEC. CEC’s failure to admit to having no up to date 5 year supply is a cynical ploy to force developers into very expensive and lengthy appeal processes in the hope that they can re-fill the 5 year supply by the time the appeals are heard. In the mean time the absence of a clear statement on 5 year supply means applications are raining in and CEC is raking in the money from the planning application fees. Good job too as they need that to offset the cost of fighting appeals – wonder how much that adds up to now? They will further benefit from the S106 agreements – a further unseen benefit to the tax payer of development.

By GreedyDeveloper

The developers and others with vested interest in making a quick buck from the planning situation in Cheshire East, show their colours (The Jolly Roger) by attacking CEC for, what is in their opinion, the deficit in numbers of dwellings to be built, never the over enthusiastic number of jobs CEC would like to create in the area. Let’s face it, there’s no profit in that, is there. CEC is trying to produce a structured, JOB LED, 5 year plan, with supporting infrastructure. As a local resident, I for one would like to see such a plan succeed. As for S106 agreements, I would like to see S106 payments raised (not wavered as I understand has been the case) and more applications of such payments towards encouraging jobs to the area. I wonder how many houses these developers will have left on their hands when the jobs are not there to support their purchase. One thing for sure, the land management firms who are trying to push through these unwanted planning applications won’t care; they don’t live around here. It’s about time Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government got a grip, stopped the land grab and let the democratically elected Council get their act together and produce what is required by the local residents, before we have no agricultural land left in the County.

By An Independent Voice

If CEC had put proper funding into planning in the first place, it would not have taken five years (yes five years!) to get a draft core strategy/ local plan together. A false economy thanks to councillors that residents will be paying for through fighting appeals.

By dismayed resident

CBM – Of course developers are interested in making a profit. They are in business & just like any other business, they need to make one.

Developers / house builders deliver a retail product called “houses”. To do that, they risk significant amounts of equity (usually their own) & funding to deliver housing that people wish to buy (read the papers recently?)

As mentioned above, the NPPF process requires a rigorous amount of consultation & reports, at considerable expense, in order to deliver schemes.

In addition, the benefits of new housing schemes can be found in increased local/community involvement & spending, increased local rates income, 106/CIL income & or provision of affordable housing within a Local Authority / Parish Council area.

Additional housing is required NOW regardless of future population increases in this country (which will happen).

The current system of housing delivery will continue to be fraught with the sort of ‘games’ & ‘postulating’ that occurs now on both sides to the detriment of those people – young & old – who wish to buy a house.

Frankly, it’s about time the system had a complete overhaul (don’t hold your breath) to sort this issue as opposed to the constant ‘tinkering’ that helps no-one.

By Get it Sorted

CEC had a DCLG recommended expert to help formulate their Local Plan and Mr Pickles praised progress, but then who am I to say how useful all that was? With regards to Padgbury Lane (Congleton) Hourigan Connolly (HC) continually quote ‘precedent’ at nearby Loachbrook Farm which CEC also refused because elected councillors did not want development there. Surprisingly HC appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and even more surprisingly CEC went to the High Court to emphasise and defend the electorate’s wishes! They lost – Gladman made money selling the land and Bovis Homes is hard at work adding character to the local landscape. The CEC Strategic Planning Board comprises some 14 elected councillors from all main parties and more and they come from every corner of the borough, still as this article indicates, they clearly have no idea what’s what. Thank God the developers seem to! Amongst the best of them in my home town is Gladman Developments, so they’d certainly get my vote in 2015. Ooopps – they won’t be on the ballot paper, will they?

By Glimmerdog

Great to see the planning system getting such a shake up – a little pain in the short term is a good price to pay if we can begin to solve the house supply crisis. Yes I am a developer and yes I own the country’s biggest buy to let agency but before you shout ‘vested interest’ just think that more supply pulls down rents and moderates house price growth so this isn’t just about profit but fairness to those priced out and not able to live where they would like.

By Stuart Law - Assetz plc

The problem is less the planning system than the short termist, highly risk averse business model adopted by much of the house building industry that demands a constant supply of easy-to-develop, cheap suburban greenfield land. To maintain profitability they drip feed units onto the market and only build what they can sell, at the right (i.e. inflated) price. What this system delivers is a market that is totally unresponsive to demand, some of the smallest homes in Europe , poor build quality, little character and endless urban sprawl without supporting infrastructure. It also delivers this constant this friction as the development lobby push for more of the wrong type of land to be released for house building. What we need are developers that can build quality homes in urban areas that appeal to all income brackets and family types at scale. Just like they manage to do all over Europe. The situation in the UK is a failure of how we build and finance homes in this country which works for no one but a select group of people – directors and shareholders of volume house builders, bankers and landowners.

By Homie

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