At the Cheshire East Council Strategic Planning Board meeting on 23 March, Conservative councillors voted through a controversial planning application for 232 houses on the Capricorn business park site - the day before the referendum was held on the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan.
Council planning officers claimed that the requirements of policies in the Neighbourhood Plan were addressed at the outline planning application stage, but the outline plans were approved in June 2014 before the Neighbourhood Plan policies had even been written!
The Cheshire East Council decision to press ahead with more housing in Sandbach before the Neighbourhood Plan referendum is in contrast with a government Planning Inspector decision to defer an appeal decision on 75 houses behind the Leonard Cheshire Home on The Hill until after the referendum.
During the discussions, concerns were expressed about the safety of the proposed T-junction on Old Mill Road. Rather than change the access, Conservative councillors called for the speed limit on Old Mill Road bypass to be reduced.
Speaking against the application, the ward councillor, Sam Corcoran highlighted problems with the way 16 houses backed onto the wildlife corridor and that Neighbourhood Plan Policy CC1 – Adapting to Climate Change – had not been fulfilled as the developers had not demonstrated how their application would minimise the use of energy and water.
Speaking in favour of the application, Simon Artiss of Barratt Homes said work would start on an enhanced Junction 17 roundabout in September 2016 and would take 40 weeks.
Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “The decision of the Conservatives to force through this application is very worrying and could set a precedent for the weight given to Neighbourhood Plans across Cheshire East. I also have very serious concerns about the safety of turning right out of this housing development onto the Old Mill Road bypass.