Junction 17


New Co-operative Labour Activists


Junction 17 Improvements - July 2017 Update

In June 2014 W&S Sandbach gained planning permission to build houses on the Capricorn Business Park site by promising to build a large roundabout by J17, that would solve the traffic problems on the A534 and J17. Despite my strong advice about relying on the promises of W&S Sandbach, Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council approved the housing application (conditional upon the roundabout being built).
As I had predicted, the developers didn't build the large roundabout. Instead the government paid for and built a smaller 'Pinch Point Scheme' roundabout.
In October 2014 the developers applied for a relaxation of the planning condition so that they could build houses first and that was granted.
On Wednesday 28 June 2017 the developers were granted permission to build a different cheaper roundabout that will NOT solve the queues on the Old Mill Road. The projections for 2020 is that queues on the A534 Old Mill Road will be 942 m in the morning and 791m in the afternoon (peaking at 1010m in the morning and 868m in the afternoon).

Although permission has been granted to build the inferior roundabout, the condition 34 of the planning permission for building houses on the Capricorn business park site still refers to the enhanced roundabout (ref 14/0043C) being built. The developers will shortly apply to have the condition changed to refer to the inferior roundabout (ref 16/5850C).

A local Conservative councillor said at the SPB meeting in June 2017 “traffic is bad in Sandbach but that is just something we will have to accept in today's climate”.

If you are not prepared to accept long queues on Old Mill Road then please email the chair of the Strategic Planning Board (gillian.merry@cheshireeast.gov.uk copy to me at sam@ncla.co.uk) to insist that the enhanced roundabout is built and that permission is NOT granted to amend the condition 34 of planning application 12/3948C to refer to 16/5850C instead of 14/0043C.


34. No more than 50 dwellings shall be occupied until the roundabout which is the subject of planning permission 14/0043C has been completed in accordance with the details approved under that permission





Junction 17 Improvements - May 2017 Update

When I was first elected to Cheshire East Council in 2011, I set out to address the traffic problems at Junction 17. At that time the problem was that it was difficult and dangerous to turn right off the motorway slip roads. Long queues were commonplace on the slip roads in the rush hour and there were several accidents.

Although no funding was at that time available, I worked with Cheshire East Highways officers to draw up plans for how the junction could be improved. Computer modelling was done to test various scenarios; these showed that traffic lights on both slip roads would cause severe congestion on the A534. The best solution was the hybrid solution with a roundabout at the end of the northbound slip road and traffic lights at the end of the southbound slip road. When the government introduced ‘pinch point’ funding for schemes that could be completed before March 2015, Cheshire East Council Highways were ready to submit the proposed J17 improvements and the scheme was accepted.

In 2014 the developers of the Capricorn Business Park site applied for permission to build a larger roundabout (ref 14/0043C) with access to their site from the roundabout. At the same time the developers asked for permission for 200 houses with an access off Old Mill Road. I knew that the developers had no realistic prospect of building their enhanced roundabout by March 2015 and therefore if the developers offer was accepted we would be left with no improvements to junction 17. Sadly, the local Conservatives (some of whom have pushed for 700 houses on the Capricorn site) granted planning permission for the houses on the condition that the roundabout was built first. Sure enough, as I had predicted, detailed plans for the enhanced roundabout were not agreed with Highways England and the Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council quietly waived the planning condition so that the developers could build their houses without having built the enhanced roundabout first.

Fortunately, I continued to press for the original pinch point scheme to go ahead and this scheme was completed in early 2015. Unfortunately, the scheme was NOT built according to the agreed design. Highways England (who are a government agency responsible for motorways) amended the design to cut costs and reduced the length of both filter lanes to join the M6 from the A534. This reduction in the length of the filter lanes has resulted in increased queues along the A534.

In addition, Highways England have set-up the phasing of the lights so that the motorway slip roads are kept clear. However, they have rigged the phasing to such an extent that at times the lights are green to let cars off the southbound slip road even when the slip road is completely clear. It is frustrating to know that there is this ‘wasted green time’ on the lights when there are long queues from the lights along Old Mill Road. I have repeatedly raised this issue with Highways England. I have even videod the wasted green time in the rush hour and then shown the video to Highways England staff. I would welcome support for re-phasing the lights from local Conservative councillors and the local MP. If elected I will certainly be taking this matter up with Highways England as the MP for Congleton.

In the meantime the developers have STILL not agreed detailed plans for their enhanced roundabout. (Remember that they said in 2014 that they could have ait agreed and built by March 2015?) The latest plans for an enhanced roundabout will be discussed at the Strategic Planning Board on 24 May.

I will continue to press for further improvements to Junction 17 including the phasing of the traffic lights and an enhanced roundabout. Of course the ultimate solution would be a double bridge roundabout (as at J18 and J19), but that would cost over £20m compared to the £3.5m pinch point scheme.


In summary the improvements to Junction 17 have made the junction much safer and have made it much easier to turn right off the motorway. The long queues that have occurred on the A534 are due to the phasing of the lights, the shortened filter lands and the increased traffic volumes due to all the new housing in the area (but that’s another story). I am convinced that without my interventions the pinch point scheme at junction 17 would not have gone ahead and we would still be waiting for any improvements to the junction.



Junction 17 Improvements - 2015 Update

I have been working for many years to get improvements to J17 of the M6 and for a world class science and business park on the Capricorn Business Park site near to J17. When I was first elected to Cheshire East Council in 2011, I asked for plans to be drawn up showing what changes to the junction could be made to reduce congestion and improve safety. A double bridge roundabout as at junction 18 would have cost over £20m. Traffic lights on both slip roads would have made the junction safer and would have reduced queuing times on the slip roads, but would have caused huge tailbacks on the A534. The hybrid solution of lights on the Congleton side of the motorway and a roundabout on the Sandbach side was the compromise solution. This is not a perfect solution and will not solve the problems of turning right out of Holmes Chapel Road or Congleton Road, but I am confident that it will make the junction safer. 

Because the computer modeling had been done and a solution agreed, we were in a position to put forward a bid for funding when the government pinch point scheme was announced.

Amazingly in September 2014, the planning department of Conservative controlled Cheshire East Council sought to block the works that were about to start. Their proposal was that the Highways Agency would give Cheshire East Council about £2m, the developers of the Capricorn business park site would give the Council £1m and then at some future unspecified date the Council would build the J17 improvements. This is incredible but the report containing these recommendations is still publicly available at http://moderngov.cheshireeast.gov.uk/ecminutes/documents/s36527/12%203948C.pdf 

I objected very strongly to these proposals as there was no guarantee that the funds received by Cheshire East Council would be sufficient to build the improvements and there was no date for when the improvements would be done. After I met with senior officers at Cheshire East Council, the plans were withdrawn and the government funded Junction 17 improvements were allowed to proceed.

I am sure that when the works are complete all sorts of people will be trying to claim credit. I am convinced that without my interventions we would not now have any improvements to J17.  

1) pushing for plans to be drawn up in 2011 and 

2) objecting to the Cheshire East Council plans in September 2014 to block the government funded scheme

I would like to acknowledge the good work done by the staff in the government Highways Agency and their opposite numbers in Cheshire East Council's highways department. I would also like to remember Cllr Roy Sutton RIP who pushed for J17 improvements over many years.



Capricorn Business Park

Sadly, in the summer of 2014, Cheshire East Council approved a planning application for 250 dwellings on the Capricorn Business Park site. This is a major setback to my vision for a world class science and business park on the Capricorn site. Disappointingly, the conditions requiring a business park with an access of the junction 17 roundabout to be built before the houses were built were relaxed in October 2014, so the developers can now build 250 houses without any business park or access being constructed. 

Since getting permission for 250 houses on the pretext that this would fund a business park, the developers have said it could take 30 years to do the business park. I predict that they will apply for more houses in due course. I also predict that the access to the housing estate will cause traffic problems on the Old Mill Road bypass.

The permission granted was outline permission, so there will have to be another detailed planning application. I will be studying that application carefully when it is submitted.



Local Plan - Consultation Until 16 December 2013

The latest proposals for Sandbach Heath are for 450 houses on a 'mixed use' site covering the entire area between the M6, Old Mill Road, Hawthorne Drive and Heath Road. The northern part of the site should be for employment and the southern part for housing. However the 'northern' part is not defined and discussions I have had with planning officers suggests that this will be interpreted as a narrow strip of employment provision alongside the M6.

I want the site bounded by M6, Old Mill Road and the wildlife corridor (Capricorn site) to be clearly designated for employment only.

Please go to the Cheshire East website and register your objection to the current proposals and say that the Core Strategy should be changed to make the Capricorn site an employment only site.


Guide to Responding Online

If you have previously registered for consultation then there is no need to register again.

To get started go to Guide to Making Comments.

The strategic sites can be found at


Please object to site CS 24 on Sandbach Heath on one or more of the following grounds

1. The Capricorn site should be for employment only. This is an ideal site for employment and it was allocated for employment only in the Congleton Local Plan.

2. The Capricorn site was marked as employment only in the Sandbach Town Strategy and this was supported in the consultation. The site was rejected for housing in the Cheshire East Development Strategy consultation.

3. The wildlife corridor should be protected and enhanced.

4. The Capricorn site is not a sustainable site for housing. It is poorly located in terms of access to local services and facilities. There are no bus services on Old Mill Road . Residents of any houses would have to cross Old Mill Road (a 60mph A road) to get to parks, playgrounds, town centre and schools.

5. Funding for improvements to junction 17 due to be carried out in 2014/15 was obtained on the basis that it would facilitate employment on the Capricorn site.

6. Local primary schools are already oversubscribed.

Please say Yes to the question of whether you wish to see a change to the Core Strategy and in the box for reasons say

450 houses is too many for this site

The area bounded by the wildlife corridor, M6 and Old Mill Road should be for employment only



Further Information and Debate

The developers want to build houses on the J17 business park site. I object very strongly to the proposal to build houses on this site.

I set out below a few of the arguments against housing on the site bounded by the M6, Old Mill Road and the wildlife corridor:

1) Using the Site for Housing Would Deprive Sandbach of Employment Opportunities

“I have campaigned for many years for a world class science and business park with improvements to junction 17. The plans have been thwarted in the past by developers out to make a quick buck. The idea of a business park is not a pipe dream. Eight years ago outline planning permission was granted for a decent business park, but then the Conservatives forced through a rival plan which made millions for the property speculators without a brick being laid. I am determined not to allow history to repeat itself and that is why I will vigorously oppose any plans which water down the plans for a business and science park by allowing housing.

The junction 17 business park site is the only realistic site in Sandbach for a world class business and science park that will provide the high value jobs that the residents of Sandbach want. Don’t let this opportunity be taken away by developers wanting to make super profits out of housing.”

2) The site is not close to schools and other amenities

There is no safe pedestrian or cycle route from this site to any primary school, or to the town centre. The housing development would be heavily reliant on car journeys.

3) There has been no proper assessment of the impact on the wildlife corridor.

The public consultation on the Draft Sandbach Town Strategy showed how much people value the wildlife corridor which runs alongside Arclid Brook. Any new developments should preserve and enhance the wildlife corridor.

Many people will remember the mixed development planned in Elworth for leisure and housing. That has ended up as a housing estate with none of the promised infrastructure improvements. I hope that nobody will be taken in by this latest planning application.


Financial Considerations

The developers argue that they need houses to pay for road improvements. This is not true. I set out below a rough sketch of the amounts involved


Agricultural land value with no planning permission £50,000 per acre

Agricultural land value with planning permission for a business park £350,000 per acre

Agricultural land value with planning permission for housing £500,000 per acre


The Capricorn site is 31 acres and all previous planning consents have expired. So getting planning permission for a business park on the entire site would increase the land value by ~£9,300,000. This is enough to pay for J17 improvements (~£5m), other highways improvements including cycle paths and a roundabout at the end of Congleton Road (~£2m) and still leave a couple of million profit.

Getting planning permission for 10 acres of business park and 21 acres of housing would increase the land value by £12,450,000, giving the property developers an extra £3,150,000 profit.

Previous Planning Application on the Site

These workings are supported by what happened the last time a planning application made by Halfmoon Investments Ltd was approved on this site. (That planning permission has now expired.)

In a speech I made at Sandbach Town Council in 2009 I set out the finances surrounding the millions made then:

“I have obtained the accounts of Halfmoon Investments Ltd and Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd and from these it appears that the land was sold

a) from Nigel Dale, a former Congleton Borough Councillor, to Halfmoon Investments Ltd for about £1M-£1.5M in about 2004

b) from Halfmoon Investments Ltd to Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd for £5.5M in about 2006.

Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd then raised a £6.8M mortgage on the land from Bank of Ireland.”

If over £5M can be made just through getting planning permission for a pub and 2 office blocks on a third of the site, then a proper development of the whole site could be a profitable project for a genuine developer.

Why J17 Business Park is So Important
Over the last 10 years several employment sites in Sandbach have been closed and replaced with housing estates. As a result there are now 0.51 jobs for every worker in Sandbach. Put another way, there are 2 workers in Sandbach for every job in Sandbach. This means that people have to look outside Sandbach for work and Sandbach is at risk of becoming a dormitory town.
There is a highly skilled workforce in Sandbach and we need highly skilled local jobs. This is not a rival or an alternative to Old Mill Quarter. Old Mill Quarter is primarily a retail park. The J17 site should be for laboratories and offices.
If more people live, work and shop locally then this has benefits for community spirit as well as for the environment.
There will always be people who commute in and out of Sandbach, but if we wish to promote Sandbach as a sustainable town then we need more employment sites in Sandbach. Many of the key employees of businesses in the NorthWest live in Sandbach. In my work I have travelled to board meetings in Liverpool and Manchester only to meet up with people who live in Cheshire. If there were a suitable location in Sandbach then businesses would locate here. That is why I have argued for many years for a science and business park close to junction 17, with road improvements paid for by the developers.

To those who say nothing has happened for the last 20 years so nothing will happen in the next 20 years, I say that there was outline planning permission for a decent business park, but the Conservatives on Congleton Borough Council approved rival plans for a pub and a couple of office blocks on a third of the site instead. That planning permission has now expired (without a brick being laid) and so there is hope again for a decent plan.

To those who say houses are needed to make the site commercially viable, I say that
in a speech I made at Sandbach Town Council in 2009 I set out the finances surrounding the millions already made on the site:
“I have obtained the accounts of Halfmoon Investments Ltd and Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd and from these it appears that the land was sold
a) from Nigel Dale, a former Congleton Borough Councillor, to Halfmoon Investments Ltd for about £1M-£1.5M in about 2004
b) from Halfmoon Investments Ltd to Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd for £5.5M in about 2006.
Avenue Shelfco 17 Ltd then raised a £6.8M mortgage on the land from Bank of Ireland.”
If over £5M can be made just through getting planning for a pub and 2 office blocks on a third of the site, then a proper development of the whole site could be a profitable project for a genuine developer.

To those who say the economic climate is not right for a business park, I say that this is a 20 year plan. Although we are now in the depths of a double dip recession, in 5-10 years time the economic situation will have changed. We should not abandon the long term future of Sandbach so that developers can make a short term profit.

In the recent public consultation the site was approved as a business park site by 161 to 41. That is a remarkable outcome. Most people don’t want housing in their backyards, so to get a clear vote in favour of an employment site shows the strength of feeling in favour of a site to provide employment.

The proposal for 700 houses on Sandbach Heath was rejected. Any housing on the J17 business park site would be completely reliant on cars. The primary schools are not accessible on foot. The Town Park and almost all other facilities are on the other side of the very busy Old Mill Road. This is not a sustainable site for housing, but it is an ideal site for a business park.

The prospects for this business park are looking more hopeful than for a decade. Previously disputes between the landowners have caused problems, but these are now resolved.
The government has agreed to pay for J17 improvements. There is a clean slate for planning applications. Don’t throw it away now by allowing housing on this site.


Local Plan - October 2013 - Withdrawn

The latest stage of the Local Plan, known as the Core Strategy, has just been published at 


The documents are not easy to follow. The critical points for Sandbach are on page 24 of the first document where it says

Currently Proposed Core Strategy Sites in Sandbach

Land adjacent to Junction 17 of M6, south east of Congleton Road(Capricorn)

20ha of employment land, hotel, at least 200 new homes, retention and strengthening of wildlife corridor, allotments, new local centre (including primary school), open space, improved pedestrian and cycle links. Initial phases will necessitate improved access whilst development of the entire site will be dependent on the prior delivery of improvements to Junction 17 of the M6.

The good news is that the number of houses has been reduced from 700 to 200. The bad news is that the entire site is designated as 'mixed use'. There is no area set aside specifically for employment. The last 'mixed use' site in Sandbach was on the Fodens site in Elworth - it is now 100% housing with no employment. I will be arguing strongly that the area bounded by the M6, Old Mill Road and the wildlife corridor should be designated as 'employment only'. 

I also have serious concerns over the following points

  1. the wording says at least 200 new homes. This suggests that the number could be much higher and could be back to the original 700. It beggars belief that after all the time and effort that should have been put into the Local Plan, the planners still do not have any concrete proposals for this site in Sandbach
  2. the proposals are for a new local centre (including primary school). Sandbach does desperately need a new primary school, but NOT on Sandbach Heath. A new primary school should be built in Ettiley Heath to cater for all the new houses on the Fodens site. At present Cheshire East Council pays £20,000 a year for school bus to take pupils from Ettiley Heath to Wheelock.  St John's, Sandbach Heath is a good school. What would happen to St John's if a new school were built on Sandbach Heath?
  3. the wording says that development of the entire site will be dependent on the prior delivery of improvement to J17. This suggests that most of the site could be developed without J17 improvements
  4. the area bounded by the M6, Old Mill Road and the wildlife corridor should be designated as 'employment only'. 



The Core Strategy will be debated at the Strategic Planning Board on Thursday 26 September at Crewe Alexandra football club, starting at 10.30am. Please email your comments to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Board  harold.davenport@cheshireeast.gov.uk copied to the Cabinet Member responsible david.brown@cheshireeast.gov.uk and me at sam.corcoran@cheshireeast.gov.uk