planning catastrophe unfolding in Cheshire East affects us all. Primary schools
in Sandbach are already oversubscribed and even after 3 schools have been
expanded there are still forecast to be 149 more children than primary school
places in Sandbach in 2016. The 2,000 new houses already approved will overload
infrastructure including roads, doctors’ surgeries and schools.
January the Council claimed (again) to have identified land for housing to
supply the needs of the next 5 years http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/council_information/media_hub/press_releases/previous_press_releases/press_releases_january_2014/protection_against_developers.aspx
at an appeal decision for 94 homes at Elworth Hall Farm in Sandbach a Planning
Inspector concluded that the Council does not have a 5 year housing land supply.
is truly devastating in the decision is the Inspector’s comments on the
competence shown by Cheshire East Council and the suggestion that the Council
was not even close to having a 5 year supply. The Inspector noted that when
rejecting the original planning application the Council claimed to have a 5 year
supply, then it subsequently decided there was not, then on the second day of
the planning inquiry it said it was about to publish a document showing that it
did have a 5 year supply. The Inspector also noted that the Council had
“changed its assumptions concerning build rates and lead in times from those
used in its 2012 assessment”. This flip-flopping by the Council is unlikely to
have impressed the Inspector. Nor was the Inspector impressed by the inability
of the Council to provide up to information on the number of houses already
being built – the information given was up to 31 December 2013. The Inspector
referred to “a distinct lack of credible hard evidence” to justify the
Council’s claims. What is worse is that the much vaunted Local Plan being
prepared by the Council was given ‘very limited weight’ by the Inspector,
who said that adoption of the Plan “is not expected before 2015 at the
earliest” and added that adoption of the Site Allocations and Development
Policies Document is “not anticipated before 2016”.
excuses trotted out by the Conservatives in the past were all examined and
rejected: the moratorium on house building may have impacted on 2006/7 but
Congleton Borough and then Cheshire East Council have failed to meet the housing
target every year since then, the “additional 20% buffer to reflect persistent
under delivery” was confirmed, and the Inspector referred to the latest idea
from Cheshire East Council announced at the Council meeting on Thursday 12/04/14
- that homes for elderly persons should be taken into account. The Inspector was
dismissive of the argument and concluded that even if another 360 homes were
added to the figures then there would still not be a 5 year supply.
to the specifics of the Elworth Hall Farm site, the Inspector observed the
severe traffic problems on
don’t worry, according to a recent Conservative leaflet, your local
Conservative councillors and MP are working hard “to protect us from
inappropriate development”. For those seeking to rely on this protection,
please remember that a few years ago Cllr Michael Jones promised a crowd outside
Westfields that Sandbach would not grow by 25%. Yet with the latest planning
approval the number of houses in Sandbach will rise from 8,000 to over 10,000.
Cllr Gillian Merry assured us that a 5 year housing supply could be in place by
Christmas, yet the latest Inspector ruling shows that Cheshire East Council is
nowhere near providing a 5 year supply. Cllr David Brown should have had a
Cheshire East Local Plan in place in 2013, yet the Inspector says it is more
likely to be ready in 2016.
goldrush of housing developers to Sandbach is caused by deliberate government
policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
country does need 200,000 new homes a year and I accept that Cheshire East needs
to build 1,150 a year, but they don’t all need to be built in Sandbach and
they should not be predominantly executive style 4 bedroom houses.
Conservatives wring their hands and shed crocodile tears, but do nothing
effective to stop the plunder of the
is an alternative to the Conservative chaos. Labour would repeal the NPPF and
devolve power to local councils. Councils would be free to build the
starter homes for young families and bungalows for the elderly that the country
needs. On a local level, in April 2013 Labour town councillors proposed a
Neighbourhood Plan for Sandbach. This would take about a year to prepare and
would protect Sandbach from speculative housing developments. Sadly,
Conservatives & LibDems blocked a Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan in 2013. I
will be asking again for a Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan at the town council
meeting on 24 April, 2014.
the meantime I urge everyone to comment on the Cheshire East Local Plan via