Local Plan Torpedoed by LibDems
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council has issued a scathing representation on Cheshire East Council’s Local Plan. Stockport claims that it has not been properly consulted, that the plans will cause traffic problems and that the justification for building in the green belt is weak.
Stockport also questions why Cheshire East Council has agreed to take 500 houses from High Peak Council’s requirement, when it can’t meet even its own targets for new houses. The intention of seeking to deliver an increased number of dwellings to assist High Peak Borough’s housing delivery and reduce impacts on the Peak District National Park, whilst understandable, is incompatible with CEC’s inability to meet their own housing needs without recourse to release of land from the Green Belt.
The Stockport response praises the laudable Sustainable Travel and Transport intentions, but points out that there is no detailed work to show that these good intentions are physically/technically feasible and financially viable. It seems that Cheshire East Council is promising great things, but hasn’t done the work to show that it can deliver. The Stockport response says that the reliance upon sustainable modes of transport, whilst laudable, is not evidenced to be deliverable, especially in relation to rail capacity.
The language used in the Stockport response is quite shocking for one local authority commenting on a neighbouring authority’s work. The response refers to “failings, inaccurate interpretations of national policy and erroneously determined approaches” and makes serious threats to object to the Cheshire East Local Plan if it is not radically changed -
“we consider that if any of the options set out in the various town strategies are taken forward into the Cheshire East Local Plan then that plan will be at considerable risk of being unsound on the grounds of deliverability and conformity with national policy, as well as failing to accord with the Duty to Co-operate. Given the potentially significant implications for Stockport and our partner authorities in Greater Manchester we may have no choice but to consider objecting to the plan on that basis.”
Stockport did ask Cheshire East to assist in finding sites for Gypsy and Traveller / Travelling Showpeople accommodation. Stockport alleges that Cheshire East offered to help, but has now restricted that offer to Cheshire East owned land within Stockport.
The Stockport response concludes that the Local Plan strategy as a whole is “not evidenced to be deliverable”. If the Planning Inspector reaches the same conclusion then the Cheshire East Local Plan will be thrown out.
Cllr Chris Thorley, Labour Councillor for Crewe East, said, “We were told that the Local Plan was in order at eth Council meeting on the 28th February 2014. Leaders of Cheshire East Council told us that once the document had been passed everything in the garden would be rosy. I have always had serious doubts about this plan standing up to scrutiny. It is nonsense for Cllr David Brown to say that the Five Year Supply and Local Plan are separate issues. How many applications have we had where officers recommendation is for refusal on legitimate planning grounds and then three weeks later the very same plan is recommended for approval stating that the about turn is because we haven’t got a five year supply?
If the current Local Plan is deemed by The Inspectorate to be flawed and requires extra houses I am of the opinion that we, South Cheshire Councillors, should make our outraged feelings felt. We have more than our fair share already allocated to our area, with the exception of Bunbury and Audlem, and any new developments should certainly be in the Tatton, Wilmslow and Knutsford areas of Cheshire East.”
Labour Group Leader Cllr David Newton said, "What bothers me is that the representation response from Stockport argues that CEC has tried to make the Plan fit infrastructure rather than start from the planning need. Handforth East seems to be a classic example. The other area of concern is what is termed 'the Green Belt Swap' where green belt in the north of the borough is traded for more green belt in the south so that Handforth East can be accommodated in the Plan and green belt given up to achieve it. This also raises questions about why implicit political judgements have been made to protect areas around Wilmslow and Alderley Edge, and possibly South Macclesfield. The justifications look too thin and too transparent and I fear that the Inspectorate will see through them.”
Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “I do not understand why Cheshire East Council has agreed to take extra houses from High Peak Council, but has not pursued the opportunity of giving some of its housing requirement to Stoke, which has brownfield sites that it want to develop. It seems that Stockport Council is also bemused by the actions of Cheshire East Council in taking on extra housing requirement.”