Cheshire East local plan submitted to Secretary of State

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Cheshire East Council's local plan strategy has been formally submitted to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government after four years of public consultation.

More than 40,000 responses from residents and organisations were collated, assessed and fed-in to the submission version of the local plan strategy.

The local plan defines planning policies for the area and includes site allocation and development boundaries. The strategy has undergone nine rounds of public consultation since 2010, and the final six-week consultation over March and April this year attracted 3,458 responses from 657 individuals and organisations.

The independent inspector will now examine the plan and it is anticipated that this process will begin in September 2014.

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.

In May 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 that were included in the local plan, and proposals to build 1,800 homes in Handforth was a case of "protecting one location at the expense of another."

Speaking to Place North West, Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "Last week we were offered to have a staged approval process for the local plan, which would take nine months to go through. However we lobbied with our local MP for a straightforward process, and this means we expect to have a clear indication of where we stand by the end of September.

"It is a robust plan in terms of numbers, although we anticipate negotiation over the sites. We would rather have one hit in the green belt in the north of Cheshire at Handforth than a pepper-pot approach, which impacts on facilities and is difficult to control. We want to create a new Garden Village.

"We want to work with developers, we're not here to say no. The only issue is clear; we don't want to give up our green fields."

When asked about the tension with Stockport Council, Cllr Jones said: "We have an interesting relationship with Stockport Council."

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