A reserved matters application by Persimmon for 350 homes at White Moss Quarry, Alsager has been turned down in line with officer recommendations, with pointed criticism of the local authority’s planning service coming from the applicant.
Persimmon’s scheme was designed by its in-house team, working with Macclesfield-based eScape Urbanists, the practice that authored Cheshire East’s design guide in 2017. The housebuilder did not look to sway the strategic planning board, but it put on record its view that dialogue with the council had not been extensive.
Adele Jack, addressing the committee on behalf of the applicant, said: “The application has been with the council for 15 months, but comprehensive comments on the design came through only a couple of weeks ago.
“Up until this point we hadn’t been aware of how comprehensive the council’s issues regarding the design were and how strong a vision Cheshire East’s design officer has for the site. We’re not trying to be difficult, and we’re not trying to force this scheme through, but we perhaps haven’t had the service we were expecting on pre-application discussions.”
She added that more constructive engagement from a resource she acknowledged as under-resourced might have allowed the scheme to be adjusted ahead of submission, rather than being fully redesigned, as will now happen.
However, she added: “Since the comments have come through, we’ve been working positively with the design officer, and we hope to submit a fresh application in late August or early September.”
The development given outline consent in September 2015 was for around 350 homes covering 24 acres, covering half of the White Moss Quarry site, along with a possible extra care facility and retail units, along with open space and play areas.
Planning officers criticised in particular the proposed housing mix, saying that affordable homes were “overly concentrated in certain areas of the site which is contrary to the design requirements of pepper-potting affordable units to provide a diverse community”.
The planners’ report also said there was “an under-representation of apartments” and added it was “unclear” what provision was being made for elderly residents.
The density of the scheme also came in for scrutiny with planners arguing the site “presents an overly-dense built edge” while its gateway “is not considered sufficiently dense or of a scale to appropriately define the key gateway into the site”. The site is still a working quarry, and was noted by the board to be of importance as a gateway to Alsager
Among the parties addressing the strategic planning board was Sue Helliwell, representing Alsager Town Council, who registered that body’s concerns with proposals for parking, the navigability of ‘shared space’ streets and the number of starter homes.