Local Councillor Slams Planning Process
An application to build up to 250 houses on Tall Ash Farm in Congleton is symptomatic of the failures of Conservative policies according to local Congleton Town Councillor Robert Boston.
There is a national shortage of housing, but the Conservatives ideologically reject any form of government planning to solve this problem and instead have let loose private developers, hoping that free enterprise will solve the housing shortage. The flaw in Conservative ideology is that private developers will build houses where they can make most money and not necessarily where the need is. As a result, planning is currently out of control in Cheshire East, with speculative housing applications being granted approval on Greenfield sites.
The counter-balance to the government’s new legislation (NPPF) is supposed to be a Local Plan saying where development should and should not take place. Cheshire East Council does not have a Local Plan and, under the Conservatives, the Plan process has been repeatedly delayed and the Local Plan will not be in place until the end of 2016 at the earliest. Congleton East Conservative Councillor David Brown was in charge of the preparation of the Cheshire East Local Plan and he gave assurances to many local residents. Then when the Local Plan hearings were suspended at the end of 2014 David Brown said, “Because I’ve had so many sessions with residents right across the borough and they’ve had confidence in me and we’ve agreed a Plan, if we’ve got to change it I think it should be somebody else that changes it and not me.”
Now we can see the implications of those failures, but David Brown continues as Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and leaves somebody else to face the music.
To make matters worse the Cheshire East Council planning department is short staffed. This has led to failures in properly assessing the impact on local infrastructure. In the case of the Tall Ash Farm application the Council has not modelled the impact of the extra traffic on the A54 and has just asked for its usual amount of £3,000 per dwelling for improvements to the A34 or to the promised Link Road.
Robert Boston, said “The Conservative MP blames the Conservative Council who blame the Conservative government. A Labour win in the Congleton East by-election on 29 October will force the Conservatives to stop passing the buck and actually address the problem. The Labour Party would give more power to local communities and would provide government assistance to councils that were struggling to produce a Local Plan.”
The Council report on the Tall Ash Farm application recommends approval saying “it will assist the Council’s 5 year housing land supply position”.