Hanson Quarry Cheshire Lakes

Saga continues as Cheshire watersports park unapproved

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

In its third hearing at a Cheshire East planning committee, proposals for a £1.6m watersports adventure park in Chelford have been rejected, overturning consent granted in August after an application process marred by council errors.

Cheshire Lakes Community Interest Company plans to convert the 55-acre former Hanson Quarry into a facility for wakeboarding, swimming, canoeing and paddle boarding. The centre would make use of two existing lakes, created as part of the quarry’s restoration plan following its closure.

The scheme has already experienced a back-and-forth of refusals and consents.

In July, it was recommended for refusal at the planning committee meeting, due to its perceived negative impact on biodiversity, despite backing from the council’s rural investment team. A decision on the scheme was supposed to be delayed to allow for the submission of further information, however the project mistakenly remained on the committee agenda and was rejected by five votes to four, with no opportunity for the applicant to make a representation.

Following the error, the refusal was quashed “to ensure a fair democratic process”, and the scheme was put on August’s planning agenda, again with recommendation to refuse. However, one of the main objectors, Manchester Airport, withdrew its submission prior to the meeting. The airport had outlined fears that the watersports centre would attract more geese to the area and increase the chance of bird hazards.

Planning permission was then granted at the meeting, with five votes to six, subject to section 106 agreements being signed.

In late October, Cheshire East received a letter from a member of the public in advance of starting judicial review proceedings, alerting the council that the previous committee report had incorrectly referenced a paragraph from the habitat regulations, meaning that the approval decision could be challenged.

In response, the Council decided to bring the scheme back to its planning committee which took place last week, to “ask members to confirm that due regard had been given in arriving at its previous decision”.

According to a report ahead of the meeting, planning officers stressed that in August the project had been “discussed and debated at length… and the committee concluded that on balance the harm to biodiversity was outweighed by the benefits of the scheme”.

However, rather than solely discussing the administrative point, the committee reconsidered the scheme in its entirety, and rejected it by a margin of seven votes to five.

The committee contained several new members who had not considered the scheme previously, or visited the site. All five previous supporters voted again for approval.

Cheshire Lakes is understood to be in talks with the council in regards to resubmitting the scheme, and is also set to appeal the decision.

Tim Woodhead, managing director of Cheshire Lakes, said: “Our planning application was seen for a third time and rejected. It had to be seen for a third time due to yet another error from the Cheshire East planning department. We don’t want to say too much right now, because we need to take more legal advice on how we will appeal and what we do next.

“There has been amazing public support for our proposals and we feel, along with our professional team of lawyers and planning consultants, that errors by the council planning department have not given us a fair hearing. We can assure you, we will be appealing and fighting and will absolutely never give up.”

Walsingham Planning was lead consultant, working alongside AECOM, Campbell Reith, FOB Design UK and Urban Green.

A spokesman from Cheshire East Council said: “This application had to be referred back to the strategic planning board after further matters concerning Regulation 9a of the Conservation of Habitats & Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012 arose.

“The planning board had to consider the potential for legal challenge if it had not given full regard to its duties under the Act.

“After further consideration, the board resolved to refuse the application.”

Your Comments

This is a disgrace. Cheshire East Council are an utter joke. Hardly surprising that they’ve got it wrong AGAIN! They should be supporting schemes that reuse sites such as this for the benefit of the wider community through the creation of a tourist destination in an area which probably doesn’t get many visitors presently. The support and interested garnered for this project massively outweighs the small number of narrow minded individuals whose only thought is for the potential impact and birds that ‘MIGHT’ come to the site, not to mention the economic and social benefits of the development.

By Fly Away Home

I’ve never quite grasped why this site is seen as being so important in ‘wildlife’ terms? These seem to be two former quarry pits that are now filling with water, and will then become lakes, much like all the other lakes dotted around Cheshire East. Surely a use like this completes the site’s restoration and delivers a use that is harmonious with birds? To chuck away – twice – albeit having approved it once – all the schemes benefits for this reason alone seems barmy, quackers in fact. The Council’s Officers and Members – especially those who could not even spare the time to visit the site – should hang their heads in shame on this one. I hope any resubmission or appeal is approved, and quickly.

By Bald Brummie Bob

Cheshire East really do take incompetence to a whole new level – tourism, jobs, prosperity, Tax on profits from this venture seemingly all secondary considerations to unspecified wildlife???? Perhaps the Planning Committee should visit Redesmere, some two miles from this site and see the ‘wildlife’ living in harmony with sailing and angling. These are excuses for the Planning committee yet again pandering to Nimby’s, Busy-bodies and do-gooders which will once again lead to an appeal funded by the Tax-payers of Cheshire East. DISGRACEFUL.

By David Sleath

Embarrassing CEC….

By Dismayed

Some embarrassing and shambolic administrative mistakes by CEC in this saga, no doubt.

But you’d also have to say that the adversarial and exploitative behaviour of house builders, strategic land companies and their consultants throughout Cheshire East in attempting to force through scores of poorly designed, poorly located and poorly served housing estates has created a climate of antipathy and cynicism towards any development in the area. In terms of the committee refusals it appears that this project is an unfortunate victim of this.

By Ben

As with every other rational local I am disgusted by the Council’s behaviour to date but even more so by the very selfish, very wealthy individual who has the finances to stir up trouble and cause this about turn. They should be named and shamed and the Council should be hauled over the coals at the appeal.

By T. Taylor

Speechless!!!

By Abbie

What a joke. Jobsworths. Investment and independent business in uncertain times,we don’t want any of that.

By Steve S

Personally, I blame the 1980s Catchphrase-esque CGIs

By Zebith

Ben, sorry but that’s a load of tosh. If committee members aren’t able to disassociate one planning application from another or judge a scheme on it’s own merits then they aren’t worthy of the position and responsibility.

By Oh Dear

‘Oh Dear’ I agree with you but you have to remember that Councillors are unsalaried voluntary positions that people fit around other jobs (or no job if retired). As such they can come to the role with a variety of different backgrounds and attitudes and have very different levels of knowledge, experience, skills and abilities.

In light of this the way in which private developers and their consultants conduct themselves creates perceptions and prevailing attitudes to development in general that might unfairly impact on proposals and result in perverse outcomes. It’s a pity and shouldn’t happen but the fact is it has and we have to understand the reasons why.

By Ben

I love watersports and often enjoy the facilities at Sale Water park. Everyone should have the chance to partake in this kind of activity.

By R Bolton

…and Cheshire East have lost how many appeals, sheer incompetence (again). Its about time someone issued a FOI to them as to the cost to the taxpayer of all the planning appeals/high court/court of appeal/Supreme Court litigation they have been through since the Framework came into force and how many cases they have won (not many) and how many they have lost (massive numbers and many with costs awarded against them), now that would be some cost benefit analysis!

By Lapwing Litigator

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