Cheshire East loses Willaston appeal

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

A planning inspector has approved proposals for 146 houses in Moorfields, Willaston at appeal, after ruling the Cheshire East local plan could only be given "limited weight".

Planning inspector Alan Boyland granted permission for the Richborough Estates scheme on 1 August, on the basis that the planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply and due to the many objections against it the local plan could only be given "limited weight" as it was likely to change.

The council's strategic planning board resolved in April that the application for the 16-acre site was unsustainable as it is located within open countryside, would result in the loss of agricultural land, and would cause a "significant erosion" of the green gap. The appeal then took place over four days in June, with the inspector making two visits to the site.

The inspector acknowledged the development would impact the view from the houses immediately next to the site, however he said "there is no right to such private views and their loss is not as such regarded as a planning consideration, even if it affects the values of the houses concerned."

Separately, in July another planning inspector, Stephen Pratt, submitted his initial comments on Cheshire East Council's draft local plan and said he was "concerned about the adequacy and methodology of the council's objective assessment of housing needs". He also highlighted the use of out-of-date figures.

Cllr Brian Silvester, UKIP member for Willaston and Rope, said: "Several hundred houses have been passed against the almost unanimous objections of residents. Hundreds of acres of green fields, many in the green gap, are to be concreted over and lost forever. This planning disaster is a self-inflicted wound. Many of these fields could have been saved from the bulldozer if the council had an adopted local plan and a five year housing supply that stands up to examination on appeal.

"I think there is a clear case for going to judicial review over the Moorfields decision. In an appeal decision only a few days earlier, for land off Sydney Road Crewe, in the green gap, the appeal was rejected because of the negative impact on the green gap between Crewe and Haslington.

"In light of the Sydney Road decision the Moorfields decision looks to be perverse and ripe for challenge. I hope the council proceeds to judicial review as soon as possible."

Paul Campbell, director of Richborough Estates, said: "We are pleased that the appeal has been allowed and we aim to make swift progress in appointing a development partner. I am aware that certain people are calling for the decision to be challenged through the courts and we would hope and expect that the council would consider very carefully the merits of this given the costs involved and the various failed challenges to date.

"If they did decide to pursue with a challenge it would inevitably delay a start on site even were it not to be successful which would ironically cause further problems for the council in terms of their five year supply."

Cllr Michael Jones, leader of the council, said: "This is another inconsistent and contradictory decision made by the planning inspectorate. It is very clear that inspectors are listening to developers.

"It is obvious that housing permissions and the number of brown field sites we have brought through have little impact compared to the clear need for inspectors to grant housing.

"It's another bad decision and one which we will look at very closely. It's part of a series of decisions that contradict with one unifying point – inspector's listen to developers.

"We are actively looking at the possibility of challenging some if not all of the recent decisions and we will make the announcement very shortly."

Barton Willmore advised Richborough Estates.

Your Comments

Perhaps inspectors would listen to CEC more if they had an up to date local plan – five years and counting…

By fed up resident

The Local Plan is the problem as it is the 1350 dwellings per annum target that is producing a shortfall in 5 year housing supply!

By LJA

UPDATE: Comment from Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council

By Ed.

I would very much hope that the decision is challenged and that Cllr Jones stands by his word in taking this to judicial review.

By another fed up resident

The planning process is broken.CE must take this to Judicial Review

By Ian Cowap

I would like to know how much of our tax money has been spent over the last 2-3 years on all of the appeals and challenges that CEC have pursued. it is clear that there is fault on the side of CEC and the money sent could have been used for more school place, staff etc. All of te Inspectors cannot be wrong.

By Concerned Resident

How does Cllr Silvester propose that CEC achieves a demonstrable 5 year supply unless it actually permits the necessary amount of housing!?

By CEC resident

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that this application would be approved. To say it is perverse is an understatement.

By Dis-illusioned resident

This can only be good for the village and its future. I would suggest that had all the residents and Councillors been truly involved in creating a more attractive and sustainable live and work village Willaston would be a better place for the future.
Good News Resident

By Hayden Jackson

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