Inspector casts doubt on 5 year housing plan

A planning application for 100 dwellings off Park Road, Willaston in the green gap between Crewe and Nantwich has been refused by the planning inspectorate. The good news is that the inspector attached significant weight to the harm that the application would have caused to the landscape character of the area. The bad news is that Cheshire East Council cannot demonstrate a robust 5-year housing land supply and has accepted that the settlement boundaries set out in its Local Plan will be subject to further change.

There is a clear party political difference over planning policies. Labour proposes building more council houses and would let local government planning determine the style and location of homes (starter homes and brownfield sites). The Conservatives have let loose private developers, allowing them to pick and choose the sites where they can make the greatest profit (executive style houses on greenfield sites in Cheshire). The result of this ideological capitalism can be seen in Sandbach where permission has already been granted to build 3,200 new homes – an increase of 40% in the size of the town! Without proper local government planning the Conservative policies have let private developers make millions and have left local communities to try to deal with the resulting infrastructure overload.

Under the current government rules, if a Council cannot demonstrate a robust 5-year housing land supply then planning permission must be granted unless the adverse impacts of the application significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. This gives a ‘tilted balance’ in favour of the developers.

Another worrying aspect of the latest appeal ruling is that the 5 year supply has been set at 14,824 dwellings and the inspector found that there had been slippage against this target and that the Council’s assumptions on lead times were not being met.

Cllr Irene Faseyi, the Labour Councillor for Crewe Central, said “The Labour group warned the Council in July last year that they needed to start work on a new plan that would provide a robust 5-year housing land supply.”

Cllr Y said “Speculative developers are making millions as a result of the relaxation of planning rules. The residents of Cheshire East are picking up the bill in terms of traffic congestion, poor air quality and overloaded services.”

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “At the Council meeting in July I said “If we don’t have a 5 year housing land supply then the Local Plan will be as effective as a chocolate fireguard in stopping speculative housing applications.” Sadly the Conservatives voted against my amendment in July and in December when I called for a refresh of the Local Plan to ensure the Council did have a robust 5-year housing land supply the Council refused to discuss my proposal and referred it to the Conservative Cabinet and then cancelled the Cabinet meeting in January.

” Dorothy Flude, Labour Councillor for Crewe South, said, “The government's planning reforms have caused chaos. This has resulted in numerous speculative housing developments on greenfield sites in south Cheshire which have benefitted speculative developers and lawyers who have made millions. Yet still the number of houses being built is inadequate to meet the nation's needs. We need to free up Councils to build houses.”

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