Cheshire East takes Sandbach ruling to High Court

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Cheshire East Council is to seek a judicial review over the planning inspectorate's decision in April to approve an application from Rowland Homes for a 96-home development at Elworth Hall Farm.

The authority said that it had requested that top legal counsel advise the Council about the potential for a realistic judicial review of the decision, and has now announced that it believes it does have scope to review.

In April planning inspector M Middleton upheld the appeal by Rowland Homes 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 February 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.

Cheshire East Council said that it vigorously contests these claims.

Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "This was a very important planning decision, which was produced in a way which left many members of the public concerned.

"I am pleased to see that we will be asking a judge to review this decision – especially on the issue of our having a five-year supply of housing land.

"I have always promised the people of Sandbach, and of Cheshire East as a whole, that we will do everything we can to defend our greenbelt and green gap spaces – and this is no exception.

"We are committed to protect our countryside from unplanned, unwanted and unsustainable development."

In December, Cheshire East served papers in the High Court challenging the planning inspector's decision to approve Seddon Homes and Taylor Wimpey's joint development of 160 homes at Congleton Road in Sandbach. The Council's appeal was dismissed by the High Court yesterday.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

Not again, when will these politicians learn to stop medalling in matters they are not qualified in. Jones stop spending our money on hopeless litigation. You keep loosing, don’t you get the message that your arguments are hopeless. Do something more worthwhile with the money instead; it’s not yours after all it’s our hard earned cash that you are squandering in the Courts. Absolutely disgusted😡

By Frustrated of Cheshire

At least Cheshire East are doing their best to help keep barristers in work – now I understand why the highway outside my house is literally falling apart despite numerous complaints.

By fed up Cheshire East resident

At what point does spending public money on legal appeals doomed to failure become a costly exercise in assuming a populist vote winning stance, all at the taxpayers expense?

By Cheshire taxpayer

"When will these politicians learn to stop meddling in matters they are not qualified in" (Frustrated of Cheshire). Never I hope! LPAs are part of the local democratic process. We elect councillors to serve the community and protect their electorate’s environment and, of course, provide land for housing/industry. The only meddling going on in Cheshire East Council (CEC) is where developer’s DO NOT accept refusals on applications that DO NOT fit council plans. Initially all legal challenges are instigated by ‘refused developers’ turning to the Planning Inspectorate on appeal – enter the legal profession! Councillors are advised by professional town planners employed by local authorities and, in the main, those elected members tend to follow their staff’s advice related to the NPPF with all its faults and a local plan which is subject to extensive consultation across the community. In CEC’s case that local plan went to the Secretary of State for central government approval on 20 May. Hitherto CEC has had to turn to the legal profession time and time again as developers challenged refused mainly speculative applications on the grounds of ‘no plan, no 5 year housing supply’ – the yawning gap in the NPPF excluding the very democracy in the community it allegedly offered! If CEC is spending considerable sums with the legal profession it is ONLY because developers continue not to accept any planning refusal – most of which are speculative and NOT in the local plan. This is NOT unique to Cheshire East – a quick search of the web will reveal hundreds of other local authorities in legal battles with developers – most battles being launched by developers – when will they learn to stop meddling in matters they are not qualified in: local democracy?

By glimmerdog

What everyone loses sight of is all of this is intentional by the Government. They don’t care if your village is ruined by speculative developers. They just want to build. You also,have to ask who is making the money ? The landowners are rewarded handsomely. Who owns large chunks of green fields ? – mainly farmers and wealthy landowners who just so happen to be Conservative voters.
You can’t lay all the blame at the foot of the Council – although they must carry some blame for not reacting quick enough to realise the Inspectors will interpret evidence which gives advantage to developers so they should have promoted sites in local plans much faster.
This is not a fair legal contest. The planning laws were changed to make sure of that.
All we can do is ride out the storm and suffer the extra traffic. Politicians and developers don’t live here so why should they care.
Remember this inequality when the ballot box comes round again.
It will be too late to save many villages, but at least it may bring a fairer system

By Ray

The High Court has today ruled that the Inspector’s decision at Elworth Hall Farm was lawful. Another very expensive wasted journey to Court just to try and prove the Council has a 5 year supply of housing. Who is responsbile in the Council for making these decisions which are wasting tax payer money and why does Councillor Jones think he is right and 18 Planning Inspectors; 4 previous High Court Judgements; and 3 Court of Appeal Judges are all wrong? When will Councillors realise that they need to start devoting the same energy and money into providing enough homes for young families. If the Council had approved all the housing allowed at appeal in the first place it would now be in a healthier land supply. It would also put the Council in a better place to deal with the inevitable tidal wave which is coming when the Local Plan Inspector tells the Council that the housing requirement should be much, much, much higher than 1,350 homes a year. This is a mess.

By Cheshire Resident