Planning Disaster Deepens for Cheshire East
For many years there was cross-party political consensus over planning matters. Developers had to prove that their plans would benefit the local community before they were granted permission to build houses on Greenfield sites. Then in 2010 the new coalition government changed the rules so that developers are allowed to build on greenfields unless the local Council can prove that the development is harmful. This massive shift in policy marked a party political divide over how to address the national shortage of new homes. The Conservatives have let loose private developers hoping that free enterprise will solve the housing shortage. Planning is currently out of control in Cheshire East, with speculative housing applications being granted approval owing to the impact of new legislation (NPPF) and because there is no local plan in place.
Cheshire East Council has been very backward in coming forward with a Local Plan, but earlier this year a Local Plan was finally submitted for review by a Government Inspector. Sadly, even after all the years of waiting, it looks as though the Cheshire East Local Plan is in trouble. The Plan has already been savaged by neighbouring LibDem controlled Stockport Council and serious concerns have been raised in a professional planning magazine. The Government Inspector appointed to review the Plan is “concerned about the adequacy and methodology of the council's objective assessment of housing needs”. Even Cheshire East Council’s own planning officers are denigrating their own plan; at a recent planning application hearing senior planning officers said that 250 houses were needed to finance 5 hectares of business park, despite the Local Plan saying that only 200 houses were needed to finance 20 hectares of business park on the Capricorn site by J17.
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “Serious questions have to be asked about why Cheshire East Council planning officers contradict their own Local Plan. If the Local Plan financial viability assessment is as fundamentally flawed as the recommendation for approving housing on the Capricorn business park site would suggest, then the whole Local Plan is called into serious doubt.”