Concerns raised about Cheshire East local plan views

Simon Donohue

A vow by the leader of Cheshire East Council to oppose speculative housing development on "green gap" land near Crewe has led to questions about his role in the ongoing public consultation into the authority's local plan.

Cheshire East has still to produce its local plan in line with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, which came into force in March 2012. The local authority is mid-way through a public consultation exercise into residential land supply identified in its draft local plan published in February. Comments for the latest round of consultation must be submitted by Thursday 30 May.

Paul Williams, a director at Mosaic Town Planning, said the situation in Cheshire East is different to that faced by other local authorities still working to meet their local planning requirements as the Conservative council's leader, Cllr Michael Jones, chose to make his views clear during the consultation process.

Williams added: "Cllr Jones has spoken out during the consultation period, a time when he would be expected to maintain a neutral stance on an issue which will become the subject of an objective and open debate.

"I think this puts the council in a difficult situation.

"It should be asking whether the council leader should be involved in making decisions when he has already expressed his opinion before consultation has concluded."

Williams, who advises house builders, said developers would have legitimate grounds to appeal against any unfavourable decisions made involving the council's leader.

The Cheshire East Council leader revealed his opposition to schemes forming part of the local plan development consultation exercise during a parish council meeting in Wistaston, near Crewe.

A number of developers have proposed building houses on greenfield land previously designated as unsuitable for new homes in order to protect the visible borders of villages in the area.

Three developers, Muller Property, Gladman Properties, and Dolphin Land & Development Consultancy, are targeting open land off Church Lane, Middlewich Road and Wistaston Green Road.

 Cllr Michael JonesSpeaking after the parish council meeting, Cllr Jones said: "Wistaston is under siege from several developers, two of whom are even speculating on the same piece of land.

"Naturally, residents are outraged by this. They want their village to remain a village and retain its identity.

"They do not want to lose the green fields that separate them from neighbouring parishes. They want to retain their green gaps.

"I am very concerned that their quality of life has been affected so badly in the last couple of weeks.

"Most fortunately, with so many residents present at the meeting, they were able to hear me offer them my strongest support and I was able to get the message over to them that these speculative plans are unplanned, unsustainable and unwanted."

Muller and Gladman are understood to be the developers interested in the same plot of land.

Another residential planning consultant, who asked not to be named, said he understands the frustration facing many councils following the March 2012 implementation of the NPPF, which required local authorities to develop local plans including a list of five years' supply of deliverable housing sites.

He said councils wanted to make their own decisions about the areas they represent but were having their decisions overturned by planning inspectors in the absence of local plans and housing supply provision. He raised concerns about councillors making promises which appear to suggest that decisions are being made in advance of the due consultation and debate.

He said: "My private view is that the council leadership needs to be very careful about making any representation when going through the process of due consultation on a local plan.

"They need to show that they have properly debated them.

"I don't think it's very helpful during a robust planning consultation exercise to suddenly go off piste."

Cheshire East Council's local plan is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

Cllr Jones has previously written to residents urging them to campaign against speculative developments forming part of the consultation exercise.

Contacted by Place North West, Cllr Jones insisted that he plays no part in the development of the local plan for East Cheshire beyond his ability to vote at various stages of the process as a ward councillor.

He said that the council has a 7.1 year supply of land for residential purposes.

He said the council would be in a position to fight any challenges from developers suggesting that the council is still to demonstrate a five year land supply.

He said delays in the adoption of a new local plan are a result of the Labour government's decision to merge three local authorities to form Cheshire East, providing insufficient time for the council to hit the March 2012 deadline set by the NPPF.

He said: "What I am doing is called democracy. I have an opinion and I will tell the whole truth. I work with developers too. This is not about just bashing one industrial sector.

"It's about the developers who march into an area intent on land banking without a care for the community or the villages that they will destroy. Land banking is immoral."

  • Follow this link to access the Cheshire East Council Local Plan consultation website.

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UPDATE: Adds quote from Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council

By Ed

Note Cheshire East was formed over four years ago (with an obligation to create a LDF), a draft of the NPPF was released almost two years ago, yet a draft local plan (core strategy) will only be appearing this summer (actual site allocations document to follow) and it will still be some time before it is actually adopted. Cllr Jones should have considered putting some funding into strategic planning, rather than simply blaming ‘greedy’ developers after the fact.

By fed up resident

After the Astra Zeneca debacle this is yet more incompetence from Jones and his chums. Sheer incompetence. If they were surgeons or doctors they would probably be in the dock with the death of countless patients on their hands. It is quite unbelievable. I am disillusioned with our political leaders the majority of which have no interest in serving the people merely to maximise the amount of food they can snort from the public trough. And I don’t think there are many public "servants" that can argue with this.

By Disgruntled

oink! oink! I agree with Disgruntled

By little piggy

This fella beggars belief; he’s wasting hard earned tax payers money fighting appeals and high court cases for developments that are demonstrably sustainable and needed. Get a grip Jones do what is right for Cheshire rather than saying what you think people want to hear; its not working and its giving the Council a terrible reputation.

By D H Jones

Cheshire councils are absolutely right to resist these rapacious developers who are only interested in converting cheap and unsustainable sites into depressing sprawl and noddy estates that nobody apart from house builders really want. Why cant these developers channel their skills, energy and capital into transforming our urban areas – places that offer much better access to jobs, services and infrastructure? More power to Cheshire East Council I say.

By Birch

‘Birch’, you do not speak for everyone. As a resident of Wistaston/Crewe for nearly 20 years I have no qualms with *some* of these developments. Considering the struggle my partner and I currently find ourselves in trying to make that first step onto the property ladder, we’re not so short-sighted as to the benefits that development in these areas can have. However what Mr Jones has done is throw tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money (including my own!) after lost causes. The guy needs to concentrate on getting the Local Plan sorted otherwise more public funds are going to wasted. As for ‘more power’, no chance! The way Cheshire East has handled this is borderline embarrassing.


I suppose Birch actually already lives in a house, built no doubt, by a ‘rapacious’ developer some time ago. Since when did house building become a ‘not for profit charity’?? If making a profit is such a crime, I’m surprised Birch’s comments aren’t directed at every single business in the UK as well. If it wasn’t for developers we’d all still be living in caves…..

By Cave Dweller

It is ridiculous to not expect a local politician express his/her opinion on a matter that will heavy affect his/her voters. After all, a politicians lives or dies by how they are perceived to have served their electorate. It is therefore "cheap" of Paul Williams to criticise the Council leader. Williams’ job will not be subject to whether his company gets to build where he wishes, but the councilor’s position is most certainly at risk should the majority of his voters see him as not protecting their interest. I believe that members of communities under threat from developers would take more open views of their proposals if they only showed real concern for local concerns. Instead, they bash on regardless, focused solely on maximising returns at the perceived expence of community concerns.

By Manolo

Why should people be forced to shell out for an over priced, undersized noddy box in the middle of nowhere just to get on the housing ladder? Profit making isnt the issue, its profiteering. Few places rely on the speculative volume built model to the extent we do and what a mess its got us in. Speculating on cheap land might suit house builders and their consultants where margins can be anything up to 18 per cent but it simply doesnt work for consumers who have to put up with some of the smallest housing in Europe, miles away from many essential services, congested roads, unending sprawl and poor quality urban areas drained of life. Releasing a few more fields will not encourage developers to increase their output as that will only hit their margins. The best way to tackle the problem and correct these profound market failures is to allow public agencies to enter the land market. Give them the resources to acquire land in more sustainable locations where new housing is seen in more positive terms, consult and agree on a planning framework and package it off to a multitude of different developers with strict conditions on profit margins and build-out rates. That way we might see some proper competition, a better product and increased output, as well as protection for the countryside and more vibrant and sustainable town centres. In short better places and better quality of life. But who case about that when there is a quick, easy profit to be made by attacking what is left of the planning system, or, cynically exploiting the current upheaval as here?

By Birch

Jones isn’t spending tens of thousands its hundreds of thousands that’s going down the drain fighting hopeless cases at appeal in the High Court; read the Loachbrook Farm Judgement for example wherein the Judge says the first part of the Council’s case is unarguable and the second part equally unimpressive; is that really an endorsement for spending all this hard earned tax payers cash, no it isn’t!!

By D T James

Birch does make some good points and yes more should be done to exploit building new homes in urban areas of decay. Fund the housing associations to fund buying affordable housing from developers in urban areas, offer tax breaks and provide a fixed profit margin for the developer.

As for Jones he is just interested in saving his own bacon, getting re-elected and securing his gold plated public sector pension. oink oink any more room at the trough?

By BirchJnr