Jones responds to Cheshire East appeal outcomes

Simon Donohue

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."

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Jones you have failed the residents of Cheshire East. Don’t try to deflect attention by complaining about the propriety of the appeals. Talk about giving you opponent extra ammunition in a fight by not having a local plan in place.
You’re a joke and you need to think carefully about whether you are really the man for your job. Recent form, what with AZ at Alderley and planning issues, suggests not. Do the decent thing and accept you are out of your depth.

By Nick

Talk of another round of legal challenges, this is crazy. Jones is contemplating spending hard earned tax payers money (again) on more lawyers and Court fees and lets not forget that if the Council looses (and they haven’t won a legal challenge yet) they could be picking up the developer’s lawyers tab too and not just the Treasury Solicitor’s costs. Has this man learnt nothing from the failed challenges at Loachbrook Farm and Sandbach. Must we endure more wasted money on these matters when Council services are so hard pressed. Come on Cllr Jones tell us what the Council has spent to date on these matters and lets see how the good people of Cheshire East react to that “news”.

By Bean Counter

Multi millionaire Cllr Jones is once again to be seen to be leading an incompetent council. Admittedly he is newish to the job however the entire council needs sacking and some decent competent people should be employed. They cant do a Local Plan, they spend large amounts of taxpayers money on futile legal challenges (get your Local Plan in order and you may have a better chance), they lost thousands of well paid jobs through AstraZeneca’s relocation away from Cheshire…shall I continue?

By NastyNick

New targets are you having a laugh Jones. The figures Jones refers to are those in the Regional Spatial Strategy adopted in September 2008. They didn’t just suddenly appear in 2008 either they were in draft documents from about 2003 so obviously they came as no surprise to the former Cheshire East Boroughs. The truth is that this Council has not done enough to meet housing needs, it is not granting sufficient planning permissions and that is why it keeps loosing the housing land supply argument. Oh and don’t go blaming the recession either Jones; if you had responded to the housing requirements appropriately you wouldn’t be in half the mire you are in now. There were plenty of people who made perfectly good applications post the crash in 08 which this Council refused and have since now been approved on appeal; clearly its going to take time for these houses to be built but who is to blame for that – not the developers but the Council c/o Cllr Jones.

By Number Cruncher

Instead of wasting more money on legal fees, CEC might think about funding the local plan process properly. CEC was formed four and a half years ago and yet still no local plan is in sight. Could Councillor Jones please explain?

By fed up local

I doubt it Fed Up Local Jones’s default answer is NO, NO, NO.

By The Real Deal

Of course there is always an element of spin, but the statements made by Cllr Jones border on blatant lies. Cheshire and all areas deserve representatives who know the facts and present them fully and honestly.

By Observer

If CEC had approved every single planning application from 2008 – 2010 then there would still be a huge backlog. The historic shortfall is entirely the result of developers not prepared to take any risk during the recession. CEC have approved pretty much every brownfield application since then and more than enough greenfield ones for normal circumstances, it’s only the developer induced backlog that is the problem. CEC have made things worse with the continuing local plan mess but whilst Jones is a very easy target (and we would probably be better off without him), he wasn’t even a councillor until 2011! If the leadership from 2009-2012 had been up to the job, the local plan would be in place by now. Take Jones to task for the failures he is responsible for by all means but anyone thinking he is to blame for the pre-2012 lack of action is misinformed.

By Rik

I echo all the comments above- fund the plan preparation and hurry the hell up and don’t waste our money on pointless legal challenges. FOI request on the money spent so far on legal fees anyone??

By Another fed up local