The Hillcrest Homes proposal for 121 dwellings at the central Macclesfield site remains likely to advance after being discussed for a fourth time at the committee level.
April’s meeting of Cheshire East’s strategic planning board resolved to grant approval to the plans, which had been deferred at two previous meetings.
Following those deferrals, the plans had been updated by Hillcrest – the housing arm of Nikal – and its architect Project3 to address concerns of committee members and consultees. That lead to April’s decision to grant approval for the scheme, which is a mix of new build and redeveloping heritage buildings. That approval is pending the completion of legal agreements.
However, prior to April’s meeting, planning officers had failed to put the plans before the six national amenity societies classed as statutory consultees on applications involving heritage buildings. That was later rectified, with the outcome being an objection from the Twentieth Century Society, a charity dedicated to preserving buildings dating back to 1914.
The society objected to the demolition of two buildings, the arts block and science block, suggesting they be retained and reused. The council’s design and conservation officer, once an objector to issues since addressed within the scheme, is satisfied that the buildings are of low architectural interest, however. Despite that, planning officers returned the issue to the planning board in the interest of transparency.
The objection reignited interest from opponents. Ward councillor Cllr David Edwards, addressing the committee, questioned whether a different decision would be reached if “these important opinions” had been heard at April’s meeting. Cllr Mike Hutchison of Macclesfield Town Council also said he was concerned that the April decision was made without the fullest information being made available.
Cllr Stewart Gardiner, vice-chair of the board spoke in favour of upholding the resolution to approve. He said: “The oversight on amenity bodies was regrettable, but has only brought one response”. Furthermore, he said, not one local voice had previously raised the loss of the two blocks as an issue, suggesting, he said, “that although the King’s site is precious to Macclesfield, those particular buildings are not”.
A proposal to have the application reconsidered in full was defeated by eight votes to two with one abstention. A counter-proposal, to uphold the resolution to grant consent, won through 7-2 with two abstentions.