Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Michael Jones has spoken about the outcomes of three planning appeals in the borough, one which ended in the council's favour and two that didn't.
The appeals related to proposed residential developments in Sandbach Road North, Alsager, and Abbey Road and Congleton Road, Sandbach.
- The Sandbach Road North application related to a planning application by Gladman Developments for up to 155 houses on land in Alsager, Stoke-on-Trent, which was refused by Cheshire East Council in March. An appeal by Gladman Developments was dismissed by planning inspector Philip Major.
- The Abbey Road application related to the development by Fox Strategic Land & Property of up to 280 houses on land south of Middlewich Road and East of Abbey Road, Sandbach. Secretary of State Eric Pickles has allowed the appeal.
- The Congleton Road appeal related to plans submitted by Taylor Wimpey UK Limited and Seddon Homes Limited for up to 160 dwellings on land north of Congleton Road, Sandbach. Planning inspector Philip Major ruled in favour of Taylor Wimpey and Seddon Homes, granting permission for the scheme.
Cheshire East Council's ability to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable land for the development of new housing was an issue in each case, as was the authority's lack of a Local Plan, which is still in development.
Cllr Jones said: "We are content to win the planning appeal in respect of Sandbach Road North and are determined to protect Cheshire's countryside and this decision goes to prove the value of the 'countryside argument'.
"However, we are disappointed that the secretary of state and the planning inspector have seen fit to turn down two other appeals, Abbey Road and Congleton Road. We put up a strong defence of our decision to refuse these planning applications.
"The planning inspector agreed that we had met the housing requirement of 5,750 homes. But because of the recession and the stall on house building this figure has now inflated to 9,000 homes over five years. This is a relatively new target.
"The pressure of this target means it could encourage more speculative planning applications, affecting our countryside compared with more sustainable development.
"Friday's decisions by the secretary of state do not help Cheshire East in its fight against unplanned, speculative developments. Cheshire East Council believes in sustainable development for the beautiful borough of Cheshire East.
"We believe these decisions to allow hundreds of homes in Sandbach and Congleton to be built is the wrong decision for Cheshire East and we will now be exploring all our possible options in order to reconsider our position and carefully choose our next steps.
"Cheshire East Council is committed to defending the rights of our residents, especially where we believe developments impact negatively upon people's lives."
Sam Stafford, a chartered town planner and associate director at Himor Group, said: "In my humble opinion, if the current plan, based upon a SHLAA that two Inspectors have interrogated, is submitted for examination I can see no conclusion on five year supply different from those reached in these decisions.
"I am not a lawyer, but if I were a Cheshire East council taxpayer I would see little merit in Cllr Jones' suggested legal challenge because, as is stated in the Congleton Road decision, 'the assessment of land supply is not an exact science' and it is hard to see how these decisions are illegal, irrational or procedurally improper, which are the accepted grounds for challenge. Even in the event though that the requirement was judged to be 7,000 the current supply is unlikely to stand up to detailed scrutiny.
"Importantly, either the submission of an unsound plan or a judicial review of these decisions would extend the current policy vacuum and so the only realistic option that I can see for the council is the swift preparation of development plan that includes deliverable strategic sites."