There is widespread agreement that as a nation we need to build more houses. Labour proposes building more council houses and would let local government planning determine where the houses should be built (such as brownfield sites in Stoke). The Conservatives have let loose private developers, allowing them to build on sites where they can make the greatest profit (greenfield sites in Cheshire). The result of this laissez-faire capitalism can be seen in Sandbach where permission has already been granted to build nearly 3,000 new homes – an increase of 37% in the size of the town!
On 24th March the people of Sandbach voted by 96% to support the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan. There is a great expectation that the fantastic community-led effort to produce a Neighbourhood Plan will bring to an end the flood of speculative housing applications that is engulfing Sandbach. However, Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council has other ideas. In a report that was due to be presented at a Cheshire East planning committee meeting on 30th March a planning officer argued that an application for 12 more houses should be approved because Cheshire East does not have a 5-year supply of housing land and “the housing land supply policies of the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan are not up to date”. So within a week of the referendum, Cheshire East Council were arguing that the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan housing policies were out of date!
When I read this report, I contacted the planning officers and asked them to reconsider. When they wouldn’t budge, I took the unusual step of asking the department of the Secretary of State to ‘call-in’ the planning application for 12 homes off Church Lane by the M6. The day after I contacted the Secretary of State, Cheshire East Council announced that they were deferring the planning application affected by the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan. This delay provides a breathing space. Any campaigners against further housing in Sandbach must now join the campaign to get Cheshire East Council to accept that the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan policies are NOT out of date. Please contact your local councillor and MP and urge them to campaign that the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan policies relating to the supply of housing are NOT out of date even though Cheshire East Council does not have a 5-year housing land supply.