Fall-out continues after plan inquiry postponed

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Cheshire East Council has replaced the cabinet member responsible for its local plan and told planning committee members not to rely on its five-year housing supply figures, as it emerged £3.7m has been spent on the plan so far.

The local authority has put Cllr Peter Raynes as head of the project to draw up the local plan, replacing deputy leader Cllr David Brown.

Cllr Brown has been responsible for overseeing the development of the local plan since Cheshire East was formed in 2009.

The cost of the work on the local plan over the past five years is estimated at £3.7m, according to information provided by the council to UKIP Councillor, Andrew Barratt.

A statement from Cheshire East Council said it is "minded to pause the examination to allow further work to be undertaken to address the inspector's concerns, which is likely to be completed within six months".

Cheshire East is now creating a task force to work on the issues raised by planning inspector Stephen Pratt, who last week announced his interim views on the soundness and legal compliance of the plan as part of the examination.

Pratt highlighted "serious shortcomings with the council's objective assessment of housing need and future provision", alongside a mismatch between the council's economic plan and its housing strategy.

Due to the inspector's criticism of the council's annual housing delivery figure of 1,180 homes, Cheshire East's head of planning Adrian Fisher told a meeting of the planning committee last week that "we no longer recommend that this figure be used in housing supply calculations… At the present time, our advice is that the Council is unable to robustly demonstrate a five year supply of housing land".

Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council said: "Cllr Peter Raynes will now lead this task force to expedite the process and reduce to as short as possible any delay to the local plan being examined and adopted.

"Peter will be ably assisted by former cabinet member Cllr Jamie Macrae, who has a fantastic background within planning and economic development. We will also continue to listen to residents and involve external partners.

"It is important for everybody to be reassured that we have listened and will continue to listen to people to make sure we get the local plan right as soon as possible."

Your Comments

Cllr Brown was clearly not up to the job and just didn’t understand the requirements so we should be thankful for his removal. But it is nonsense to think he was operating in a vacuum and that Michael Jones wasn’t intimately involved in all key decisions. CEC made decisions and only then tried to find the evidence to support them. That is entirely redolent of Michael Jones with his “tell them what they want to hear” approach to politics. As soon as an independent 3rd party is involved any such approach gets found out.

The reality is that this 6 month suspension won’t come to fruition until after next May’s local elections at which time there will be a fundamental change in the balance of power in Cheshire East. As such it will be more like 12 months until the inspector next considers the Local Plan. Given the likely rise of UKIP and their fantastical view of planning that will just mean the plan getting thrown out again.

The earliest the poor residents of Cheshire East can realistically expect a ratified Local Plan is 2017. The Tory / UKIP backers in the house building industry will no doubt be celebrating the success of this failure. But any Cheshire East resident current enjoying a view over farmland should assume that those fields will get built upon.

By Rik

Are you suggesting Brown was Jones’s straw man?

Well I never.

By scouseboi

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