Cheshire East’s revised draft Local Plan features changes to the green belt around Macclesfield, Alsager, Poynton and Wilmslow, in order to deliver the increased target of 36,000 homes needed in the borough by 2030.
The council has published a 700-page document outlining a raft of changes to the Local Plan, including a range of new development sites. A special meeting of its strategic planning board will meet today, 18 February, to go through the proposals.
The examination into the Local Plan was suspended by inspector Stephen Pratt in 2014, after he found “serious shortcomings with the council’s objective assessment of housing need and future provision”.
The plan initially proposed a minimum of 27,000 houses between 2010 and 2030, averaging 1,350 homes a year. Following a period of research and gathering additional evidence in the first half of 2015, the council increased the number of dwellings by 33% to 36,000, and the requirement for new jobs has gone up from 13,900 to 31,400 on 930-acres of land.
To accommodate this increase, denser development is needed on land previously included in the plan, and additional sites are being brought forward, including on formerly restricted land.
The council is proposing to build on the green belt around Macclesfield, is taking 60-acres out of the green belt around Alsager for business expansion, and is changing the green belt boundaries around Poynton and Wilmslow.
Land around Macclesfield, Handforth, Knutsford, Poynton, and Wilmslow has also been earmarked for development after the plan period ends in 2030.
In addition to the increased targets, Cheshire East is facing a 9,000-home backlog, as it is already five years into the plan period, and hasn’t built the 1,800 homes each year required to stay on target.
In a report accompanying the revised plan, the council said: “Unsurprisingly, especially with the after effects of recession, the borough has not built the 9,000 homes needed in the first five years of the plan period – and in fact faces a backlog equivalent to over three years’ housing requirement.”
Cheshire East is aiming to work through the backlog over the course of the next eight years, but said that in order to meet the deficit, the Local Plan would need to include additional land in each settlement to boost supply.
Since the start of the Local Plan process, Cheshire East’s housing and employment targets have been repeatedly criticised by the development community for being too conservative and not supporting the level of growth needed in the borough. Several major planning applications have been approved on appeal, due to planning inspectors ruling that Cheshire East did not have a substantial enough five-year housing supply.
Two key figures associated with the plan, Cheshire East Council’s leader Cllr Michael Jones, and executive director for economic growth Caroline Simpson, have departed in recent months. Before Christmas, Cllr Jones resigned his leadership over allegations of improper conduct. In January, Simpson left Cheshire East to join neighbouring authority Stockport as corporate director of place.
Jones is due to be replaced as Cheshire East Council leader by Cllr Rachel Bailey, who is also the portfolio holder responsible for the Local Plan.
If approved by the strategic planning board on 18 February, the amends will go before Cheshire East’s full council on 26 February, and then will be put out to public consultation between 4 March and 19 April.
The council is aiming to present the amended plan to the planning inspector in June, with examinations hearings expected to resume in September.
Targets up across towns
Cheshire East has prepared a report on each of the principal towns and key service centres in the borough, evaluating all of the potential sites and highlighting the changes.
The plan has increased the amount of homes proposed for Crewe to 7,700 units, up from 7,000, alongside 160-acres of employment land.
New site allocations have been included at Parkers Road, 175 homes off Broughton Road, and a second phase of 275 homes off Sydney Road.
Now set to be the location for 4,250 homes, up from 3,500 homes, and 50 acres of employment land, up from 37 acres.
Due to the limited amount of sites allocated in the area previously, “the remainder of the development needs can only be accommodated by taking land out of the green belt”.
South West Macclesfield will be the main focus area for these schemes, with 300 homes at Congleton Road, and 200 homes at Chelford Road, alongside a new distributor road.
The draft plan removes 60-acres of land from the green belt to the south of Radway Green to allow for business expansion, and overall has increased targets to 2,000 homes, up from 1,600 homes, and 100 acres of employment land, up from 86 acres.
There will be three sites on the edge of Poynton brought forward which will cause a revision in the green belt boundary, at Sprink Farm, Hazelbadge Road, and Chester Road.
There will be 650 homes built, up from 200 homes, and 25-acres of employment land, up from seven acres.
Housing delivery plans in Wilmslow have more than doubled, to 900 homes from 400 homes, alongside 25-acres of employment land, up from eight acres.
Sites are still emerging around Wilmslow, but the council said that additional allocations will all require changes to the green belt boundary.
Housing allocations in the North Cheshire town are up to 950 homes, from 650 units. There will be 37 acres of employment land, up from 25 acres. There will be 500 homes built, on three plots to the North West of Knutsford.
The 60-acres of employment land previously allocated will remain, while housing targets have gone up to 4,150 homes, from 3,500.
The focus at Handforth is on the North Cheshire growth village, which will total 2,200 homes, alongside 55-acres of employment land. A new site is included at Sagars Road, for 250 homes.
The town will support 185 acres of employment land, and 1,950 homes, an increase from 1,600. This includes 225 homes at Warmingham Lane.
Nantwich will be the location for 2,050 new homes, increased from 1,900, and seven-acres of employment land. Sandbach will support 2,750 new homes, an increase from 2,200 homes, and 50 acres of employment land.
In addition to the towns and key centres, the scale of development is being increased around villages and in rural areas, from 4,500 homes to 6,450 homes. Specific sites and focus areas are yet to be decided.
A missed opportunity? Industry responds
Henry Brooks, managing director of Tatton Estate Management, said: “We welcome the progress of the Cheshire East Local Plan and the ambition to deliver high quality jobs and communities. Cheshire has a vital role to play in the Northern Powerhouse and we are very concerned that the revisions fail to capitalise on this, failing to include key opportunities, or ‘safeguarding’ them for the 2030s which offers no assistance to businesses who want to expand and invest in the area today. Yesterday’s announcement risks pushing back on our plans to create high quality jobs at Parkgate (Knutsford) and the Cheshire Gateway.”
Dan Mitchell, partner at Barton Willmore, said: “What the Local Plan will need to get right is the balance between identifying land for development, and the emerging neighbourhood plans, especially in the cases of the well-serviced villages who should support a greater level of development, but don’t want it.”