Open letter from Cllr Michael Jones, Cheshire East Council
There is nothing more important than protecting the green spaces of Cheshire East. I feel every appeal decision, and I have to say that national priorities for housing need are making Cheshire East vulnerable to speculative housing as a presumption in favour of growth overrules many of our committees' planning refusals.
Since March 2013, when I first announced we had a five-year supply of housing land, I have followed every appeal. We have hired the best barristers and our planning committees have given approvals for many thousands of houses to be built.
So, let me make it clear: UKIP and Labour don't lie, they merely don't tell you the whole truth.
Recently, Labour said we did not respond to the cross party commons committee inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework. This is true – but we challenged the NPPF the day after it was issued and we have challenged it 11 times since in meetings with the Secretary of State and the Ministers for planning and housing.
The whole truth is that houses should not be about politics – and we have more appeals by developers against our planning decisions than anywhere else I know.
Some local councillors for Crewe say officers disagree with the council leadership saying we do now have five-years housing supply – yet again, they are not telling the whole truth. I can tell you the latest position by officers – including new consultants we have on board to advise us specifically on the five-year housing supply – is far stronger than any local councillor could deliver.
So let me make it clear to Labour, UKIP and the developers: we will not support unwanted, unplanned and unsustainable development.
Moreover, I am happy to tell you that, since March 2013, planning permission has been granted for 7,367 homes and we also have up to 2,500 outstanding permissions, which are subject to completion of legal agreements. On top of that we have applications for more than 2,000 homes, which are due before planning committees in the near future. These numbers do not include new National Planning Policy Framework guidance on including student accommodation and care home accommodation.
We will also be driving forward progress on development of our strategic sites and those other sites identified in the Local Plan as suitable for development.
So I say to Labour and UKIP: stop talking half-truths and support our five-year housing supply and support your communities by backing our Local Plan – and get on board with our 'residents first' neighbourhood plans, which we have introduced and are moving forward with several parishes.
Other parties want to make planning and housing a political football – but we want to take the politics out of housing and put our residents first.
Another way the Council is supporting sustainable housing growth is by focussing on developing brownfield sites – with its 'brownfield first' policy.
Indeed, we are writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him to make Macclesfield as a brownfield 'exemplar' – highlighting it to other authorities as a model of good practice for using brownfield sites first for development.
Our desire to have Macclesfield become a designated 'brownfield exemplar' is clearly to enhance the viability of developing brownfield sites and allow the Council to remove sites from the greenbelt.
This is something everyone should support.
Councillor Michael Jones
Leader of Cheshire East Council