At the Cheshire East Council meeting on Friday, the latest version of the Local Plan was approved. The Local Plan will now go out to public consultation, then be resubmitted to the Inspector. The Inspector suspended his examination in 2014 and it is hoped that the examination will recommence in September 2016.
While Cheshire East doesn’t have a Local Plan, government rules allow private speculative property developers to pick and choose sites to build houses. So it is critical, particularly for areas that are not covered by a Neighbourhood Plan, that Cheshire East Council gets a Local Plan in place as soon as possible.
The level of debate was variable. A question was raised as to why, in the section detailing the amount of growth in Key Service Centres, the words ‘to meet local needs’ had been crossed out. The new Conservative Leader of the Council said it was a marked-up edit version of the document, but gave no explanation for the rationale or implications of removing the wording ‘to meet local needs’. Concerns were expressed that local service centres such as Congleton, Middlewich, Sandbach and Alsager will now be expected to meet the housing needs of other areas.
Labour Group Leader, Cllr David Newton, said, “Cheshire East Council has been backward in coming forward with a Local Plan. The delay has allowed developers and landowners to make millions out of speculative housing applications. The problems caused to creaking local infrastructure are already apparent to local residents and most of the housing hasn’t yet been built. We need proper local government planning to ensure that infrastructure is in place to meet the demands of extra housing numbers, but the government policy is to allow private enterprise to drive development.”
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “I have previously said that almost any plan is better than no plan;, I now have to stress the word ‘almost’. This plan is bad news for Sandbach Heath. The latest changes add yet another 150 houses on what is supposed to be a business park site, bringing the total houses for Sandbach to nearly 3,000 – a 37% increase in the size of Sandbach. This will add to existing traffic problems and will overload local primary schools. It is astonishing that all the Sandbach Conservative councillors voted in favour of the extra land being allocated for housing and voted against my amendment objecting to this land off Hawthorne Drive being allocated for housing