Jones claims Local Plan ‘good value for money’

Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Michael Jones has defended the £3.7m cost of compiling the blueprint for development in the borough up to 2030, which has stalled at formal examination.

Jones said the local plan work was necessary to protect the borough from "unplanned and unsustainable development".

The council has, at further significant cost, lost many planning appeals by house builders in the past two years due to not being able to demonstrate a deliverable supply of new sites for the next five years, a government requirement.

The public examination of the Local Plan was paused for the council to amend its plans following strong criticism from the Planning Inspector in his interim report.

Cllr Jones said: "First of all, the council put the spending figure in the public domain in the first place. We have nothing to hide. It is perfectly reasonable and sensible to spend £3.7m putting together such a large, complex and vitally important document as the Local Plan and I don't understand why some critics are seemingly so upset. A spend of £3.7m would equate to the monetary value of about 1.5 acres of development on land in the north of the borough.

"When you consider that many developers are trying to get planning permissions on our greenbelt and greenfield sites – £3.7m to protect us from up to £81bn of development gain going in unsustainable locations seems pretty good value for money to me."

The council said it received more than 40,000 responses from residents and organisations, which were collated, assessed and fed into the submission version of the Local Plan Strategy. The strategy has also undergone nine rounds of public consultation since 2010.

A spokesman added: "This work is of real value and has already contributed towards the council receiving tens of millions of pounds of Government funding for our roads. The work done on the Local Plan also forms the building blocks of whatever plan the council goes forward with – so none of it is wasted."

Cheshire East has now created a Task Force, led by Cllr Peter Raynes to drive and coordinate the work to address the inspector's concerns and strengthen the Local Plan.

Cllr Raynes, Cabinet member for finance, added: "It is important to bear in mind that the pause in the public examination of the Local Plan is not a rejection of the entire Local Plan – and we welcome the opportunity to address the specific areas of concern to the Inspector.

"The report highlights some weaknesses in the Local Plan but there's plenty that's right – the duty to cooperate with neighbouring Councils for example.

"The delay is regrettable but it is important that this document is right for the people of Cheshire looking forward to 2030. We fully support the Government's Localism agenda and believe local people should have the power to shape their communities and the final Local Plan will reflect this."

Your Comments

I think if a well respected Inspector like Mr Pratt tells you that if you were to proceed with the submitted Plan he is likely to find it unsound it is a BIG problem irrespective of how much you have spent on it; it’s no little hiccup as Councillors suggest. The scale of the task ahead is significant as will be the cost. Let’s hope that if the Council decides to persevere with the submitted Plan and prepare major modifications that they satisfy Mr Pratt because if they don’t its going to be more egg on faces all round at CEC which isn’t likely to go down well just before an election is it?

By BIG PROBLEM

IT IS CLEAR THAT THERE IS NO INTENTION OF AMENDING THE PROPOSED PLAN TO SATISFY THE INSPECTOR’S CONCERNS BUT AN INTENTION INSTEAD TO AWAIT EMERGING NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANS IN THE HOPE THAT THEY WILL LIMIT DEVELOPMENT. IS CON SHORT FOR CONSERVATIVE?

By james

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