A successful appeal against the refusal of planning permission for 160 houses on greenfield land in Sandbach could lead to the construction of up to 7,500 new homes in the town on an "unplanned and ad hoc basis", a planning inquiry has heard.
Taylor Wimpey and Seddon Homes are joint appellants in an appeal against Cheshire East Council's decision to refuse planning permission in relation to a site to the rear of 130 Congleton Road, Sandbach.
Due to run over eight days at the Municipal Buildings in Crewe, the inquiry is being presided over by Planning Inspector Philip Major.
He told the inquiry that the main issues under investigation were the council's ability to demonstrate a a five year supply of deliverable land for new housing in the borough; the impact on the character and appearance of the area and loss of countryside; traffic and congestion; and the loss of agricultural land.
Major said a conjoined inquiry examining the issue of a five year housing land supply and involving as many as 16 developers proposing residential schemes in Cheshire East had met with "resistance" from appellants wishing to have their cases examined independently.
He indicated that no precedent could be set by this inquiry but said that inspectors presiding over subsequent hearings might find parts of the evidence given at this inquiry to be "persuasive" in forming judgements.
He said: "The hope is that by the time I have heard two appeals, it will have provided information which could be persuasive."
Planning Inspectors have granted permission for similar schemes on appeal where appellants have proven that a local authority cannot demonstrate a five year supply of housing land.
Richard Humphreys QC, a member of No5 Chambers in Birmingham, representing Cheshire East Council, told the inquiry that a "consortium of nine developers and house builders has been formed to demonstrate in self interest that a five-year land supply cannot be demonstrated" and had published a review of Cheshire East's deliverable land for new housing.
Adrian Fisher, Cheshire East Council's head of strategic and economic planning, said that a ruling in favour of the appellants in this case would see others "unquestionably use the decision to support their own proposals", potentially leading to the "unplanned and ad hoc" construction of up to 7,500 homes.
He added: "The appeal proposals are one of many development proposals now being put forward around Sandbach town. These include sites that are the subject of appeal or appeals recently granted, current planning applications, sites in pre-application discussion and sites being promoted through the development plan process.
"This presents the very real prospect that the town of Sandbach will grow significantly and entirely incrementally, contrary to National Planning Policy Framework advice for plan led development.
"A development of this scale has implications beyond its own small area.
"There are sites extending to some 45.5 hectares currently proposed in existing appeals or applications in the edge of town. Sites extending over a further 246 hectares are being promoted through formal pre-application discussion of the Local Plan.
"This scale of development is far in excess of that proposed by the council and would significantly alter the form and character of the town."
He said the development being considered by the inquiry would represent "an incongruous, isolated, urbanised and inappropriate" form in the countryside.
Paul Tucker QC, a member of Kings Chambers in Manchester, is representing Taylor Wimpey and Seddon Homes.
He said that Cheshire East's local plan had now expired and that it could not demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable land for new housing.
In addition, he said that there was no evidence to support Cheshire East's decision to refuse the scheme on the basis of impact or loss of agricultural land.
He urged the inspector to grant permission for the scheme.
Around 50 people attended the opening of the inquiry, including representatives of resident action groups against the new houses and other developers.
Outside the inquiry, representatives of Sandbach residents opposed to speculative development said they are concerned that the green spaces between villages in the area will be "filled in" with new homes if the inquiry rules in favour of Taylor Wimpey and Seddon Homes.
The hearing continues.