Cheshire East takes housing test to Supreme Court

Cheshire East Council has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to seek legal protection for local planning powers in an attempt to block housebuilders even when it cannot show the statutory five years’ land supply for new housing.

The aim is to prevent developers “riding roughshod over councils’ development policies,” the council said in a statement on Friday.

The council hopes to maintain the significance of Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans in determining applications for development even where the council cannot show it has the required five years’ deliverable housing land supply.

The council’s legal fight is the latest episode in a long-running legal dispute over developer Richborough Estates’s application to build 146 houses at Moorfields, in Willaston.

Cllr Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “We are delighted we have been granted leave to take this case to the Supreme Court.

“We thought about this decision to mount a legal challenge long and hard and it is not something we have done lightly. However, this matter is too important to be allowed to go unchallenged.

“It is clear to us that the Appeal Court ruling would have severely detrimental implications for all councils and their powers to protect their local communities from unplanned and unsustainable development.

“We are a council that puts its residents first and believe this action is necessary to protect local people, their communities and our rich and varied Cheshire East countryside. We do not want to be left vulnerable to developers who would be able to ride roughshod over locally-decided development policies.”

Cheshire East’s Supreme Court legal challenge is a joint action with Suffolk Coastal District Council, which was also affected by the same Court of Appeal ruling regarding the weight, scope and force attached to council planning policies.

The case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court in London between April and July 2017.

Dan Mitchell, managing partner of Barton Willmore, said: “This case involves a technical point in defining what ‘relevant planning policies for the supply of housing’ actually are, set in the context of when a local planning authority, like Cheshire East, does not have a robust five year land supply of deliverable housing sites. The Council claims that only a very narrow definition is right. The Court of Appeal determined that this was wrong and that relevant polices that relate to the supply of housing include policies around settlement boundaries, green gap policies and other land use protection policies that would, in effect, be deemed to be restrictive of new housing. Certain policies in Neighbourhood Plans could also be deemed to be out of date if Supreme Court challenge fails.

“However, this is not about developers riding rough-shot over Council development plans, as has been reported. Government policy is clear. It aims to significantly boost the supply of housing, creating the homes we need for now and future generations. Local Planning Authorities have a clear mandate to allocate sufficient land in their Local Plans to do this, something which Neighbourhood Plans can also contribute to by identifying development sites. It will be those Councils that do not release enough land for housing that could potentially be caught out.”

Your Comments

Good luck to Cheshire East in taking this important matter to the SC. Many communities through the the Country will be eternally grateful if you succeed.

By Devil's Advocate

And plenty of 20/30 somethings with no fat accumulated equity like grey hair nimbys will be eternally distraught if Cheshire east win this nonsense case.

Good luck my ar5e

By 25 year old locked out

I wonder why CEC has consistently failed to demonstrate that it has a 5 year housing supply… is it because they don’t have one?

If they can’t allocate sites properly themselves (which is preferable), then its right that the private sector does this for them. There’s demand there that needs satisfying.

By koolio

Have Cheshire East still, after £1,000’s of Tax Payer’s Money wasted on appeals, not cottoned on to the fact that Nimbyism is no longer popular because everyone accepts the need to allocate land to ensure Housing demand is met?

By David Sleath

Having grown up in Willaston, but now a ’20/30 something’ that can’t afford to buy a family home in the village… I’d be quite happy for this scheme to (finally) be given the green light.

Enough games CEC.

By Popcorn

Even if CEC allocate 20 years of housing land it will have absolutely no bearing on affordability or supply. Volume house builders will still only build out at a rate that maintains their extortionate profit margins which means units will continue to be drip-fed onto the market. Moreover the infrastructure in Cheshire East, in the main, will not support thousands of new houses because neither the government, nor the house builders want to pay for it.

So CEC are absolutely right to take a firm stand against speculative housing proposals sprawling into the countryside which contribute nothing to the quality of our urban environment, put unnecessary strain on existing infrastructure and undermine the vitality of urban areas.

In my view, Cheshire East should be incorporated into a Greater Manchester strategic plan for housing land allocation. They are practically one and the same area economically and there is significant overlap n their housing and employment markets. Doing so would also serve to drive development of underused brownfield sites into new high quality, highly sustainable, medium density residential neighbourhoods and prevent demand jumping the green gap into unsustainable locations in East Cheshire.

The only people lobbying for the development of the sorts of sites mentioned in the article are the landowners, developers and their army of consultants, all of whom stand to make big bucks on the back of yet turning a field into a sea of yet more low quality noddy boxes.

By Taylor McMillerRow

Taylor Mc:

A 20 year supply would enable CEC to nudge development towards locations where they’d prefer it, rather than purely where developers do, which has got to be a good thing.

It would mean that developers could deliver sites more cheaply, by avoiding have to factor in the cost of lengthy planning battles. This would give them scope to offer more affordable home or infrastructure contributions.

The cost saving in planning battles could also be used by CEC towards infrastructure.

Putting GM and CE together wouldn’t make sense. There may be economic overlap, but people choose to live in the two places for different reasons. The fact is, Cheshire East is (mostly) a highly desirable place to live – why should this be restricted to those incumbents fortunate to have got in there before land values went ridiculous? We don’t all want to live in a former mill in Ancoats.

By koolio

Were that the case koolio!

Your entire argument assumes a functioning market for new build housing. In reality, because housing markets are extremely localised and the local new build offer sewn up by one or two players there is absoltutely no incentive to increase output, or quality or invest in infrastructure. Due to the opaque nature of the land market, any additional housing land allocations would likely be gobbled up by the same big builders. Any savings on planning costs would be absorbed into the land costs or profit margins and you know it.

What we need is more good quality neighbourhoods attractive and accessible to many rather than a select number of costly and exclusive enclaves sprawling far from urban centres with everywhere else suffering from underinvestment and blight. It is simply not the case that people ‘choose’ to live in Cheshire East – in most cases they are forced to due to lack of choice. There is ample opportunity to create vibrant, high quality neighbourhoods attractive to a wide demographic on huge tracts of land within and around the M60 if only housing supply was liberated from the oligopoly of big house builders.

By Taylor McMillerRow

Taylor McMillerRow… the big plc’s are just bad people wanting to make a big profit. I get it. I’ve heard the argument countless times over the years.

However in reference to the CEC site mentioned in the article, the application is not for an ‘exclusive enclave sprawling far from an urban centre’. This is in a sustainable location that has been spared any form of development in well over a decade.

The market in this area has been affected by news of HS2, however with the presence of TW, Bloor, Bellway, Persimmon, Barratt and Bovis all active in the area (not “one or two players” as you put it) there is genuine competition in the market. True, some prices may be inflated but those that are, simply don’t sell and the buyer moves a few miles down the road to the next site.

As I commented earlier, I would happily purchase a house in this location but with the limited stock available, the “grey hair nimby” brigade have a monopoly on prices in the village. Instead I’ve had to look elsewhere, and managed to negotiate a reasonable deal on an older property as the vendors are aware of the number of new-builds being offered out there. For my generation, this competition and the introduction of such sites is a good thing. Not everyone can wait 5years+ for their council to get their act together and produce a sound Local Plan.

Whilst I can’t comment on life in and around the M60, I would suggest that sometimes it wouldn’t hurt to be more open-minded. As a local resident, my personal experiences (not what I read in the DailyMail) have so far been contrary to your points above.

By Popcorn

Popcorn – I do not think anybody would begrudge plcs making a big profit if we weren’t in the midst of a “housing crisis” characterised by insufficient supply and lack of affordability. Was it Persommon who announced a £600m annual bonus pot recently?

Your anecdote paints the situation as a bed of roses which you might argue would strengthen the Council’s case. In reality, no house builder commits to building units that they did not think they could sell at the asking price – to do so would undermine their whole business model. The industry’s output will therefore remain largely constant relative to demand and that remains the case whether there is a 5, 10 or 20 year supply of housing land. Releasing extra land therefore has little impact on prices or output.

Lobbying for ever more sites cheap greenfield sites to be allocated is simply the industry ensuring they have a stable supply of their raw material so they can continue churning out their God-awful product at extortionate prices whilst the more complex and sustainable urban sites – that could, with the right finance and expertise, provide high quality neighbourhoods for vastly greater numbers than the current model allows – continue to be neglected.

By Taylor McMillerRow

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