Cheshire East plan inquiry put on hold

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

The Cheshire East core strategy examination has been adjourned due to the "unexpectedly large volume" of additional material submitted in relation to strategic sites.

The council has put forward a revised programme for the remaining hearing sessions, proposing a break in proceedings until the beginning of December.

According to a statement from Stephen Pratt, the planning inspector overseeing the examination, "during the course of the hearing sessions, several legal submissions have been made by the Council and other participants about the examination process and the legal compliance and soundness of the submitted local plan". The inspector is to consider these legal submissions, as well as deciding whether to give his interim views to the council on "the legal compliance and soundness of the submitted plan".

The inspector said that he would inform the council of his approach in the next few weeks.

The examination began in September and was due to run until the end of October. The inspector began the proceedings by saying he had concerns about both the legal compliance and soundness of the plan, and raised questions about the council's level of co-operation with neighbouring boroughs.

The local plan sets out the council's case for sustainable economic growth and is the strategy the council wants to adopt to manage development in Cheshire East up to 2030.

Sources close to the examination anticipate that the process will be suspended for six months to allow the council to publish major modifications and consult on them.

A spokesman for Cheshire East Council said: "Cheshire East is happy to support a short adjournment in the examination hearings to allow the inspector to review the extensive number and volume of hearing statements concerning Matter 14 (strategic sites and strategic locations), which have been submitted.

"The examination hearing sessions have now sat for three weeks, in which time the main strategic issues have been discussed. The remaining hearings will deal with site-specific matters.

"Thus far, the examination hearings have been very well attended by a wide variety of interests – with duplicate sessions necessary on some issues to accommodate all of the participants."

Cllr David Brown, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, added: "Given the scale and intensity of the examination hearings so far and the unusually high number and volume of material submitted for the site-specific matters, we fully support this announcement from the inspector.

"I support the fact that many local people have responded and I don't want their hard work to be lost in the sea of developer hearing statements.

"This adjournment allows all parties to draw breath, consider the remaining matters before the examination – and we look forward to a resumption of the hearings."

The council's plans to build 1,350 homes each year have been repeatedly criticised by local developers and planners, who believe the estimate is too low.

At appeals, planning inspectors have repeatedly ruled that Cheshire East will miss its housing target unless it increases its development pipeline.

Employment has also been highlighted as a major issue, as the plan only allows for 14,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.

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