Chhesire East Local Plan is Unsound

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 the coalition government changed the rules to allow developers 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. As a result, planning is currently out of control in Cheshire East, with speculative housing applications being granted approval. The counter-balance to the new legislation (NPPF) is supposed to be a Local Plan saying where development should and should not take place. Cheshire East Council approved its Local Plan in February 2014 and it was submitted for examination to a government Inspector. Now that Inspector has said that there are “serious shortcomings” in the Plan and unless it is revised he “would probably conclude that the submitted Plan is unsound”.

The Inspector gave Cheshire East Council 3 options:

a)      continue with the current examination, in which case he will probably reject the Local Plan

b)      delay the examination for up to 6 months to try and correct the problems; or

c)      withdraw the current Plan and start afresh on a new Local Plan

Cheshire East Council has announced that it will pause the examination to allow further work to be undertaken to address the Inspector’s concerns. However, the Inspector has warned that “it is important that any amendments to the LPS (Local Plan Strategy) and its underlying strategy do not result in a fundamentally different spatial approach or strategy or result in substantial modifications which result in a significantly different plan.  If the amendments necessary to ensure that the LPS is sound are so significant that it results in a fundamentally different plan, withdrawal may be the most appropriate course of action.”

One of the main concerns of the Inspector was over a mismatch between the Conservative leadership’s grandiose economic plans and the low jobs growth assumed in the Local Plan. The Inspector mentioned the Crewe High Growth City, Atlantic Gateway and North Cheshire Science Corridor and contrasted this with the “pessimistic” jobs growth assumed in the Local Plan, concluding that there were “some serious shortcomings in the economic strategy of the submitted plan, which in reality may not actually represent a sustainable and deliverable strategy for growth”.

Planning expert and Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Congleton, Dr Darren Price, said, “Questions must be asked about the competence of a Council leadership that constantly talks up the economic prosperity of the area and then produces a plan that is considered to be pessimistic about jobs and growth. They can’t have it both ways. We need realistic housing figures based on realistic assumptions if we are eventually to have a Local Plan adopted. Only this will bring an end to the rapacious profiteering of developers.”

There was some good news in that the Inspector concluded that the Council had complied with the “minimum legal requirements of the Duty to Co-operate” with neighbouring councils. However, the Inspector did note that provision to accept an extra 500 houses to meet some of High Peak Council’s housing needs did not seem to be fully justified.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “It does seem very strange that Cheshire East Council has agreed to build 500 extra houses to meet High Peak Council’s housing needs without fully justifying why. It also seems strange that the Conservative leadership on Cheshire East Council have not been engaging in more discussions with Stoke City Council to explore the possibility of developing brownfield sites in Stoke instead of greenfield sites in Cheshire. We should be working closely with neighbouring councils, not merely complying with the minimum legal requirements.”

A detailed reading of the Inspector’s report suggests that the problems with the Local Plan are numerous and serious. The Inspector comments that the plan does not “prioritise brownfield land over greenfield sites” and “does not specifically consider the need for housing for older people”. The Inspector’s report ends with the chilling comment that “if the amendments necessary to ensure that the Local Plan is sound are so significant that it results in a fundamentally different plan, withdrawal may be the most appropriate course of action”.

Cllr Ken Edwards, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Central, said, “Sadly the Conservative Administration in Cheshire East has failed in one of its fundamental duties, that is to create a robust Local Plan to ensure that future development benefits the community as a whole without destroying amenity for residents. Early lack of concentration on this vital task and a wish to cut expenditure to the minimum has meant far too few resources were allocated to this task, particularly in the years 2010 to 2012.

“The Tories have failed in one of their flagship policies, trumpeted as a huge success by their leader Michael Jones. The Inspector’s suggestion that withdrawal of the entire Local Plan may be the most appropriate course of action is surely the final nail in the coffin of the reputation of David Brown, the Councillor who leads on the Local Plan and is responsible for its implementation.”

Cllr Mo Grant, Labour Councillor for Crewe North, said, “At a recent Cabinet meeting Cllr Michael Jones assured me that he had contingency plans in place in case the Local Plan was not approved promptly. We now need to see those contingency plans.

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 the coalition government changed the rules to allow developers 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. As a result, planning is currently out of control in Cheshire East, with speculative housing applications being granted approval. The counter-balance to the new legislation (NPPF) is supposed to be a Local Plan saying where development should and should not take place. Cheshire East Council approved its Local Plan in February 2014 and it was submitted for examination to a government Inspector. Now that Inspector has said that there are “serious shortcomings” in the Plan and unless it is revised he “would probably conclude that the submitted Plan is unsound”.

The Inspector gave Cheshire East Council 3 options:

a)      continue with the current examination, in which case he will probably reject the Local Plan

b)      delay the examination for up to 6 months to try and correct the problems; or

c)      withdraw the current Plan and start afresh on a new Local Plan

Cheshire East Council has announced that it will pause the examination to allow further work to be undertaken to address the Inspector’s concerns. However, the Inspector has warned that “it is important that any amendments to the LPS (Local Plan Strategy) and its underlying strategy do not result in a fundamentally different spatial approach or strategy or result in substantial modifications which result in a significantly different plan.  If the amendments necessary to ensure that the LPS is sound are so significant that it results in a fundamentally different plan, withdrawal may be the most appropriate course of action.”

One of the main concerns of the Inspector was over a mismatch between the Conservative leadership’s grandiose economic plans and the low jobs growth assumed in the Local Plan. The Inspector mentioned the Crewe High Growth City, Atlantic Gateway and North Cheshire Science Corridor and contrasted this with the “pessimistic” jobs growth assumed in the Local Plan, concluding that there were “some serious shortcomings in the economic strategy of the submitted plan, which in reality may not actually represent a sustainable and deliverable strategy for growth”.

Planning expert and Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Congleton, Dr Darren Price, said, “Questions must be asked about the competence of a Council leadership that constantly talks up the economic prosperity of the area and then produces a plan that is considered to be pessimistic about jobs and growth. They can’t have it both ways. We need realistic housing figures based on realistic assumptions if we are eventually to have a Local Plan adopted. Only this will bring an end to the rapacious profiteering of developers.”

There was some good news in that the Inspector concluded that the Council had complied with the “minimum legal requirements of the Duty to Co-operate” with neighbouring councils. However, the Inspector did note that provision to accept an extra 500 houses to meet some of High Peak Council’s housing needs did not seem to be fully justified.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “It does seem very strange that Cheshire East Council has agreed to build 500 extra houses to meet High Peak Council’s housing needs without fully justifying why. It also seems strange that the Conservative leadership on Cheshire East Council have not been engaging in more discussions with Stoke City Council to explore the possibility of developing brownfield sites in Stoke instead of greenfield sites in Cheshire. We should be working closely with neighbouring councils, not merely complying with the minimum legal requirements.”

A detailed reading of the Inspector’s report suggests that the problems with the Local Plan are numerous and serious. The Inspector comments that the plan does not “prioritise brownfield land over greenfield sites” and “does not specifically consider the need for housing for older people”. The Inspector’s report ends with the chilling comment that “if the amendments necessary to ensure that the Local Plan is sound are so significant that it results in a fundamentally different plan, withdrawal may be the most appropriate course of action”.

Cllr Ken Edwards, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Central, said, “Sadly the Conservative Administration in Cheshire East has failed in one of its fundamental duties, that is to create a robust Local Plan to ensure that future development benefits the community as a whole without destroying amenity for residents. Early lack of concentration on this vital task and a wish to cut expenditure to the minimum has meant far too few resources were allocated to this task, particularly in the years 2010 to 2012.

“The Tories have failed in one of their flagship policies, trumpeted as a huge success by their leader Michael Jones. The Inspector’s suggestion that withdrawal of the entire Local Plan may be the most appropriate course of action is surely the final nail in the coffin of the reputation of David Brown, the Councillor who leads on the Local Plan and is responsible for its implementation.”

Cllr Mo Grant, Labour Councillor for Crewe North, said, “At a recent Cabinet meeting Cllr Michael Jones assured me that he had contingency plans in place in case the Local Plan was not approved promptly. We now need to see those contingency plans.

Do you like this post?

Reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Liquid syntax error: Error in tag 'subpage' - No such page slug cookies