Seashell Trust appeal to be decided

The charity’s proposals to develop a school and 325 homes on Green Belt land in Handforth, refused by Stockport Council last year, will be decided by the Secretary of State after a planning inquiry drew to a close.

A five-week inquiry into the Trust’s appeal against Stockport Council’s decision closed on 25 June and follows a long-running planning process.

The Seashell Trust provides specialist care to children and young people with autism, deafness, blindness, and those with physical and learning disabilities.

Its hybrid application, which went before Stockport Council last year, includes detailed plans for a 60,000 sq ft school, including a swimming pool and associated infrastructure, at a site off the Handforth Bypass and Wilmslow Road.

The charity currently has a 120-capacity school and college at the site, but is aiming to redevelop the area to provide a new school facility to allow it to increase student capacity and provide up-to-date facilities for pupils and college learners.

To enable the development, the Trust had aimed to sell around 37 acres of agricultural land, bordering the Handforth Bypass, for a residential development of up to 325 houses.

This land is designated as Green Belt, and proved to be the main bone of contention for Stockport Council, which went against officer recommendation to reject the application in January last year.

Stockport’s planning committee voted seven to five to refuse the plans, arguing the Trust had not proved the “very special circumstances” needed to develop on Green Belt land. Planning officers had admitted the scheme was “in conflict with relevant Green Belt policies” with the council’s Local Plan, but argued the criteria for “very special circumstances” had been met.

However, the scheme was refused by committee which argued the proposals would cause “a permanent detrimental impact on the openness of the Green Belt and campus land and a resultant encroachment into the countryside; a failure to comply with the Council’s standard for affordable housing; and that the proposed development would result in an adverse impact on the setting of the historic grade two-listed building”.

An appeal followed in June last year, with the inquiry now drawing to a close. In a closing statement, the Trust’s QC Giles Cannock said: “This is a proposal conceived after a painstaking masterplan process by a charitable trust which performs outstanding work with the most complex and vulnerable cohort of children in the country.

“It is agreed that the school is not fit for purpose and that a replacement building is required. However, funding is required, in the absence of any state funding. The only source of funding is providing housing on the Trust’s land. The provision of such housing will deliver much needed market and affordable housing.

“It is genuinely difficult to conceive of a more powerful set of very special circumstances.”

Seashell chief executive Jolanta McCall added: “The appeal has been a thorough and transparent examination of all the evidence in this complicated case and I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone on the Seashell team who has worked so hard in the run up to, and during this inquiry. We believe we have presented all the evidence to support our case.

“Our current school is desperately outdated and no longer fit for purpose and we are struggling to meet the challenging needs of our pupils because of the constraints of the building. We need a new school and campus but have to sell some of our land to help fund this redevelopment.

“We have made that case through the appeal process and now we have to await the final decision which we very much hope will be in our favour.”

The planning inspector will now write a report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision on the application.

Your Comments

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There’s something wrong with that image, on a one way system the minibuses are facing the wrong way?

By Just saying

My partner used to work for that trust. They have a terrible culture of intimidation towards their staff.

By Roscoe

A slightly one-sided view…? This doesn’t mention that the Trust originally wanted to raise £20m to fund a new residential block, a new school and some other developments on site. They did the first half of that very successfully and on budget. Only a few years later, that £20m has ballooned to over £65m and comes with a threat to close down if they don’t get the money (despite the fact that their business is growing every year). The demand for this additional £45m is why they are being ‘forced’ to sell the Green Belt – to fund a school several times the size and cost of the SEND benchmarks. The claims of Very Special Circumstances were comprehensively rebutted throughout the Inquiry – employing an expensive legal team to try and claim any inconvenient legislation or policy is out of date or irrelevant doesn’t make a weak case any better.

By Heald Green

There is something incredibly wrong with a ‘charity’ that has people raising money for them, then decides to spend three quarters of a million pound on cladding, when there are cheaper alternatives available, which would do the job adequately. Just goes to show that the hard work people put into raising money for you means absolutely nothing. I for one will never donate another penny to you.

By Disgusted.

We need to save green belt
Even with new by pass still too much traffic, schools over subscribed & doctors have far too many patients
This should not happen but if Jones homes it probably will?
Strange that isn’t it?
Completely against this proposal for over 300 houses!

By Ann Marie Mott

Yet more greenfield land to go? If this plan goes ahead, there will be even more congestion on the A34 and over in Heald Green. Why can’t the Government help to fund the Trust’s plans for redevelopment?

By A Cynical

There are currently meetings going on about the flooding in the Cheadle and Heald green areas . We clearly have an issue making the green belt ever more critical.
Add that to poor transport networks, over subscribed doctors and schools , how is 325 extra homes going to help anyone .
The trust are lying. They said no plan B and they would close yet hold a healthy bank account and have the means to continue without ruining several villages and putting lives and property at risk of inadequate services because a big cheque has been waved at them for the land . Disgraceful SST.

By Traci corrie

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