Elworth Hall Farm


Housing Policy
Town Strategy
Appeal Rulings

The 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.

In 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

However, 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. pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/fscd


What 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”.

The 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.

Turning to the specifics of the Elworth Hall Farm site, the Inspector observed the severe traffic problems on Middlewich Road and hinted that the developers should have been asked for money to improve the Abbey Road/Middlewich Road junction, but noted that Cheshire East Council Highways team hadn’t asked for any contributions towards improvements to the junctions on Middlewich Road . This is yet another case where developers are being allowed to build on greenfields and Cheshire East Council are allowing them to get away without paying for necessary infrastructure improvements.


But 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.

The goldrush of housing developers to Sandbach is caused by deliberate government policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The 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.

The Conservatives wring their hands and shed crocodile tears, but do nothing effective to stop the plunder of the Cheshire countryside. The local Conservatives blame the government for the NPPF. Conservative MPs blame local Conservative councillors for not having a Local Plan. Instead of blaming each other, the Conservatives need to do something.

There 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.

In the meantime I urge everyone to comment on the Cheshire East Local Plan via www.ncla.co.uk