Marsh Green Road Planning Fears

At the Sandbach Town Council meeting on Thursday 8 March, a report was
received on the flaws in the Cheshire East Local Plan and Sandbach
Neighbourhood Plan exposed by the Marsh Green Road planning application. The
report confirmed that despite having recommended the planning application
for approval, Cheshire East Council planning officers now accept the
decision of the Southern Planning Committee and will contest any appeal.
This is good news, but unless the flaws in Cheshire East's Local Plan are
corrected then there is a risk that the government Planning Inspectorate
will allow the Marsh Green Road application on appeal.

The Marsh Green Road planning application for 30 dwellings (ref 17/3611C)
was recommended for approval by Cheshire East Council (CEC) planning
officers, because it was for affordable housing and therefore according to
CEC was supported by the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan. The problem arose as
1.      Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan (SNP) policy PC3 only allowed affordable
housing in open countryside if it was in accordance with Congleton Borough
Council policies which were relevant at the time. Congleton Borough Council
policies clearly defined this category as being specifically to support the
rural economy, (labourers, rural workers etc). Therefore SNP policy PC3 was
sound before the Cheshire East Local Plan was approved.
2.      Cheshire East Local Plan policy SC6 carried over similar controls as
Congleton Borough Council on affordable housing in open countryside - for
Local Service Centres and Other Settlements, but NOT for Key Service
Centres. Sandbach is a 'Key Service Centre', so the failure to reference Key
Service Centres in the Cheshire East Local Plan leaves open a loophole for
affordable housing on any greenfield site around Sandbach.
The obvious answer would be to amend policy SC6 of the Local Plan. However,
Cheshire East Council seem reluctant to do this.

In the report presented to Sandbach Town Council it was confirmed that the
policy to allow unlimited affordable housing on greenfield sites around
Sandbach was not inadvertent. So Cheshire East Council admit to having
deliberately set policies that allow unlimited affordable housing on
greenfield sites around Sandbach. This breaches the intention of the
Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan, but not the wording.

Labour councillors are pressing for amendments to either the Local Plan or
the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan to make it clear that simply labelling
housing as 'affordable' does not mean that planning permission on greenfield
sites around Sandbach should be granted.

Kathyn Flavell, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Elworth, said, "We have a
Council that picks and chooses between different policies to suit its own
ends. The lack of consistency between the local plans has caused confusion
and misinterpretation. We need to align the various policies to ensure there
is no longer any ambiguity. I am pleased that CEC will support the decision
to deny planning permission for the Marsh Green Road Development when it
comes to appeal. However, there are other concerns besides the argument over
affordable housing and planning loopholes. The Marsh Green Road site would
have very poor access: a narrow residential street, already in a poor
condition, is completely unsuitable for heavy plant and site traffic, or
indeed the extra residential traffic once the development is finished.
Astonishingly, Cheshire East Highways has made no objection to the plans on
this basis; by putting pressure on them to recognise the unsuitability of
this planned development, we can add an extra line of defence at the

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, "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 (brownfield sites). 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 deliberate Conservative policy 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 overl

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