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Problems with Housing Plan

Planning Nightmare Set to Continue

 

 

Towns in Cheshire have been deluged with speculative planning applications since the coalition government introduced new rules to try and boost the economy by allowing housing on greenfield sites. Local authorities can reject housing applications if the sites are not in the Local Plan, but as Cheshire East Council doesn’t yet have a Local Plan, developers can build almost wherever they like at the moment. Cheshire East Council is now working on a Local Plan and has just published a draft of the latest stage, known as the Core Strategy.

 

Serious concerns were expressed about the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ discussed at the meeting of Cheshire East Council’s Strategic Planning Board on Thursday 26 September. Peter Yates, a respected local planning expert, noted that the 10,000 comments from the previous consultation had not yet informed the Plan. He questioned how the sites in the Plan had been chosen and asked whether it was a lucky dip based on who the owner was.

Many of the speakers about the emerging core strategy expressed concerns about the unexpected ‘additional sites’ consultation for the Local Plan. This consultation included plans for 1,000 houses on the land at White Moss Quarry. Hon Alderman Derek Bould said that several recent planning applications in Alsager had been rejected on the basis that hundreds of new houses in Alsager were unsustainable and pointed out that the inconsistency between rejecting hundreds of houses in Alsager and then supporting plans for 1,000 new houses on the outskirts of Alsager could lead to the rejections being overturned on appeal.

 

At the same time as putting forward plans for 1,000 new homes on White Moss Quarry the Council has dropped plans for hundreds of homes on a nearby site at Barthomley. The Barthomley site would have affected many Conservative voters in the parliamentary constituency of Crewe & Nantwich MP Edward Timpson. By contrast, the White Moss Quarry development will most affect the residents of Alsager who live in the Congleton parliamentary constituency, whose votes are taken for granted by the Conservatives.

Cllr Chris Thorley, Labour Councillor for Crewe East said, “Edward Timpson MP represents hundreds of Barthomley residents who are objecting to plans for houses in Barthomley, but seems to have forgotten petitions signed by 1,500 Crewe residents delivered to him in June 2011. Mr Timpson did nothing to oppose the application for 650 houses in Coppenhall East when it came before the Strategic Planning Board in October 2011. The public comments by Mr Timpson’s spokesman that Labour councillors approached him too late are not only factually incorrect but also show him trying to score party political points when he should have been representing his constituents and opposing the atrocious planning applications in Crewe.”

 

 

Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “The late introduction of new sites and the poor consultation could put at risk the entire Local Plan and allow the speculative developers more time to get their planning applications through. Just to give 2 examples of flaws relating to Sandbach and Alsager:

 

·         In Sandbach all the consultation results have supported an ‘employment only’ site by junction 17 and have opposed houses on that site. Yet the Conservatives are pressing ahead with plans to allow housing by junction 17 as part of a mixed use site.

·         Earlier this year the Ombudsman found the Council guilty of maladministration and ruled that Cheshire East Council had knowingly and persistently misled the public over a planning application (ref 11/3759N) to change the status of land at White Moss Quarry near Alsager. Yet Cheshire East Council are pressing ahead with plans to build 1,000 houses at White Moss Quarry. The site was not included in the initial consultations, but was introduced as part of an unexpected ‘additional sites’ consultation.”

 

Cllr Howard Murray, Conservative Councillor for Poynton East and Pott Shrigley, said, “Nobody wants a judicial review but that will be the inevitable result of going ahead with this Plan. I recommend that you remove the ‘additional sites’ from this Plan.” When questioned over whether he believed that the consultation process on the additional sites was flawed, he replied unequivocally “Yes”.

 

 

Cllr Barry Burkhill, Independent Councillor for Handforth pointed out that the proposed number of new houses in Wilmslow had been reduced from 1450 to 250 and the housing moved north to Handforth. He said that he had no doubt that this would help the Wilmslow councillors retain their seats, but that it left the Council open to accusations of gerrymandering.

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