A hybrid application from Muller Property Group for its Houndings Park development has been recommended for refusal by Cheshire East planning officers, citing issues over retail competition and open space provision.
The site, much of which is historically known as Fields Farm, sits south of Old Mill Road. In October 2017, Muller secured an outline consent for up to 200 homes and open space – although this remains in place, the developer launched consultation in March 2018 on adding retail and a care home to the scheme.
Muller, which is advised by Knights and architect Dixon Dawson, is seeking full consent for 7.1 acres of the site, with elements including a 21,000 sq ft foodstore, a filling station with retail, expected to be operated by BP and M&S Simply Food respectively, two drive-thru units, a farm shop and two retail pods of around 1,400 sq ft, to be operated by a national bakery and national sandwich chain.
For the remaining 10.2 acres, Muller seeks outline permission for a 78-bed care home, 92 dwellings, including houses of two to four bedrooms and two apartment blocks, along with the conversion of existing barn and farmhouse buildings into two dwellings per building.
Sandbach Town Council has objected to the scheme, claiming it goes against the Local Plan, that the local authority has a five-year housing supply, it would increase traffic and out of town retail would harm the town centre.
While letters of support have been received from four households, 89 households have sent letters of objection. Opposition has also come from a petition that has garnered support from 118 residents and two local businesses.
In assessing the retail element, Cheshire East is advised by WYG, which has carried out an impact assessment, concluding that while residents would benefit from increased choice, “the significant adverse trade impact on Sandbach town centre significantly outweighs the small improvement in consumer choice that the application scheme would deliver”. Officers also said that the scheme fails to provide sufficient open space, and fails in design terms to improve the quality of the area.
Although there remains scope for further information to be provided ahead of planning committee on 27 February, refusal could stymie once again Muller’s plans at the site. In 2012 it lodged plans to bring a supermarket to the site, which were refused. The developer then changed its plans to a housing-led scheme. but fell into dispute with the council over access to the site before securing its 2017 consent.