Against officer recommendations, Cheshire East’s northern planning committee has voted six to three to back Select Property Group’s expansion of its headquarters in Alderley Edge.
Select’s offices on Horseshoe Lane, close to Wilmslow Road, are housed in converted farm buildings. The business, which includes Vita Student, CitySuites and Affinity Living, is seeking to insert an infill in between two buildings to act as a reception, a proposal planners are happy with.
However, there are also additional parking proposed by Select, for which Eden Planning is acting as agent. The site currently has 58 parking spaces, 48 of them on the northern end of the site between the railway and the astroturf pitches at the Ryleys School.
Select’s wish is for around 60 additional spaces: 14 either side of the new access road, a handful on space created by the development work, and the remainder on the plot between the company office and Wilmslow Road, currently used for temporary parking.
Noting the site’s green belt status, Select said it believed “very special circumstances” apply, as it is a large employer locally and intends to add 25 further head office jobs to the 125 already at the site.
However, ahead of the planning committee, officers had recommended the project for refusal, claiming it would “create a significant area of hardstanding in an area where there is currently no development”.
“The proposal also constitutes encroachment into the countryside which would consequently conflict with one of the identified purposes of the Green Belt,” said the planners’ report.
“The car park proposal also represents a material change of use of the land. There is no exception in national or local plan green belt policy for this development and it must, as a matter of current planning case law, be classed as inappropriate development.”
In a 90-minute-long debate at committee, Select’s plans were enthusiastically backed by the local parish council, with Cllr Mike Dudley-Jones from Alderley Parish Council speaking in favour of the proposals.
“There can be no question that Select Property Group is committed to Alderley Edge in every sense. Since becoming the sole owner of the site in 2016, this company has become a strong and willing supporter of our community, and the village, and the parish council do not want to lose them,” he said.
“The stance taken by Select throughout their tenure of the site, to commit to a sound car parking strategy, has done an enormous amount to alleviate the horrendous car parking situation we experience in Alderley Edge.
“It seems strange that the planning officers [are] recommending refusal of this application, as it was not that long ago that this small strip of greenbelt housed chicken sheds and muddy chicken runs.
“That said, it is still greenbelt, and the planning officer I’m sure is technically correct to draw attention to it. But this is an application where perhaps the overall benefits far outweigh the very limited harm caused.”
Donna Barber of Eden Planning, supporting Select in its application, said the officers’ assertion that the development would cause “substantial harm” was “simply not the case”, and cited verified views that the car park would be barely visible from the road.
She also refuted the officers’ claim that the economic benefits of the car park were not quantified, citing research from consultant Regeneris which “points out qualitative and quantitative benefits, including the fit with Cheshire East’s economic vision”.
“If Select leaves, the parking issues will worsen,” she said.
Ultimately, councillors voted to back the scheme against officer recommendation, with six voting for, three voting against, and two abstentions. The project has been approved subject to a travel plan being implemented.
Calderpeel has designed the building element of the scheme, working alongside landscape design practice Planit-IE.