Another government planning inspector has overruled Cheshire East Council on a new housing application stating it cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites.
The inspector, M. Middleton, upheld an appeal by Rowland Homes, clearing the way for a 96-home development at Elworth Hall Farm in Sandbach.
In the appeal decision letter dated 11 April, the planning inspector identified issues with the council's proposed pipeline of housing, pointing out that 40% of houses assumed to be delivered within five years do not have planning permission. The document also said that "their early development is by no means a certainty" and that "significant infrastructure requirements will undoubtedly cause delays".
The council refused a planning application by Rowland Homes in June 2013. As part of the public inquiry the council provided the planning inspectorate with a document outlining its revised five-year land position. The council has lost a string of housing appeals at inquiry in the past two years as inspectors found it could not meet the legal requirement to show five years of deliverable housing plots.
Following the decision, Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "This is just a further example of the nonsensical and inconsistent decision-making being executed within the Planning Inspectorate at this current time.
"In October, a Planning Inspector's decision stated that we had a 4.3 year supply including the need for a 20% buffer. More recently we have had an Inspector's decision that we need only a 5% buffer. Since October we have added many thousands of houses and permissions and I find it staggering that this Inspector can be so cavalier in saying we have not got a five-year supply. While the timing of the appeal did not allow the Council's full updated evidence case to be presented the lack of consistency of approach is immensely frustrating.
"What is disappointing is that this Inspector seemed determined to listen to developers who have a vested interest in profit rather than the Council who have a people interest and who are committed to Cheshire East's environment."
Cllr Brian Silvester of Cheshire East Council, said: "The council now needs to inform residents how they intend to fill the gap in the housing land supply. The local plan has only recently been agreed by the council but it has no chance of being approved by the minister if a five year supply of housing cannot be demonstrated to his satisfaction."
Planners Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners advised Rowland Homes. No one at Rowland Homes was available for comment.