Inspector casts doubts on Cheshire East Plan

When will Cheshire East Council Adopt a Local Plan

This is the question on the lips of all of us that are concerned for the future of our towns and villages as yet another setback has delayed the planning process.  In his interim report dated 6th November 2014, the Planning Inspector Mr Stephen Pratt has indicated that as a result of significant shortcomings in the Council’s approach it may not be appropriate to resume the remainder of the hearing sessions in early December as originally hoped. These further delays mean that despite constant assurances from Cllr Michael Jones that a Local Plan for Cheshire East is imminent it remains no closer, with no possibility of anything being in place before the Elections in May 2015.  In the meantime developers will continue to decide where housing is built regardless of the views of local communities.

The Inspector’s main concerns are that the council presents an economic strategy based on ‘unduly pessimistic’ assumptions about economic growth and jobs growth.  In addition to this he identifies a ‘serious mismatch’ between the economic strategy and the housing strategy.  In other words, even though the Council’s new housing numbers have been calculated using very low economic growth predictions the volume of housing that is considered appropriate is still too low to meet this likely need.   The Labour Party’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Congleton constituency, Dr Darren Price who works in housing and planning professionally says:

“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.”

The Inspector also highlights shortcomings in the Council’s objective assessment of housing need, indicating concerns over the level of affordable housing included in the plan. Sandbach Heath and East Councillor Sam Corcoran concludes:

“The current position is that developers are building houses for profit and not to meet housing need. What we need is more homes for the elderly and affordable homes for first-time buyers, built in places agreed by local communities.  Until we have an adopted Local Plan, Cheshire East Council will continue to fail to protect its communities.”

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