A second public inquiry is due to be held into plans by the Darnhall Estate to build 184 homes on open countryside near Winsford, despite the scheme being previously refused by the Government and repeated objections by Cheshire West & Chester Council.
The Darnhall Estate first submitted plans for the development in 2013; the site covers 16 acres of open countryside outside Winsford, accessed off Darnhall School Lane.
The proposals put forward five years ago are for 74 affordable homes, 18 self-build properties, and 92 further houses. This application was initially refused by Cheshire West & Chester council.
At the time of its first rejection, Cheshire West & Chester had argued that the submission of the planning application was premature, due to the area’s Neighbourhood Plan being not yet fully published.
The original application also received 57 objections from neighbours, who raised concerns over the scheme’s “negative impact” on local wildlife; a lack of infrastructure services to support the project, and supposed high levels of development density.
Following the adoption of the area’s Local Plan, the council continued to object to the scheme, based on the fact that the land is designated as open countryside.
After the planning application was rejected by Cheshire West & Chester, an independent inspector allowed an appeal, but this appeal was then thrown out by Greg Clarke, then Secretary of State, in July 2016.
However, the Government’s decision was then challenged by the developer in the High Court, which found in favour of the Darnhall Estate on three grounds: that a proposed planning condition requiring training and employment measures was wrongly rejected; that a planning condition requiring the use of a local building firm was wrongly rejected; and that a planning condition requiring local procurement was wrongly rejected.
The Secretary of State had argued the first condition was “not sufficiently precise and difficult to enforce”; while the second condition, which required that any builder would have to have a main office in Cheshire West, Cheshire East, or Warrington at the date of planning permission, and builds a total of less than 500 homes a year, was said to “impact on the delivery of the development” and again would be difficult to enforce.
The third condition, which would require 20% of the gross construction costs of the development to be delivered by businesses based in Cheshire West, was also unclear.
This has led to a public inquiry for a second time; the appeal will again be heard on 27 November this year.
Cheshire West & Chester planners have maintained their objection to the project based on the High Court appeal, focussing on the three planning conditions.
Based on the High Court decision, the developer’s case that the project would have “significant” economic and social benefits would be given more weight by the council than it had previously done so; however, planners argued these would not outweigh the council’s policy position, which does not support development on the site.
Planners concluded the development would represent “encroachment on the countryside” and recommended the council should maintain its position of refusal. The public inquiry and the planners’ recommendation will be discussed at a meeting of Cheshire West & Chester’s planning committee on 4 September.