Town Planning
Up Housing Policy Town Strategy Appeal Rulings

 

New Co-operative Labour Activists

 

SUPREME COURT RULING - MAY 2017

An in depth reading of the Supreme Court ruling on 10 May that allowed permission for 150 houses on Green Gap land in Willaston has revealed that no land is now safe from speculative housing applications, whether it is Green Belt, Green Gap or even a heritage site. The ruling makes clear that if the local authority does not have a 5-year housing land supply then planning permission must be granted on almost any site.

 The root of the problem is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) brought in by the Con/LibDem coalition government and Cheshire East Council’s failure to have a 5-year housing land supply. If the Council wishes to refuse permission then it must prove that the adverse effects ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh the benefits.

 In an absurd press release sent out on the day of the ruling (and probably written before the ruling had been read), the Tories on Cheshire East Council claimed victory despite losing the appeal.

 The judges were scathing in their criticism of Cheshire East Council, describing their argument as inappropriate and unnecessary.

 Cheshire East Council had sought to argue that only policies that relate to the supply of housing are ‘out-of-date’ if the council doesn’t have a 5-year housing land supply. The judges said, The important question is not how to define individual policies, but whether the result is a five year supply in accordance with the objectives set by paragraph 47 [of the NPPF]. If there is a failure in that respect, it matters not whether the failure is because of the inadequacies of the policies specifically concerned with housing provision, or because of the over restrictive nature of other non-housing policies. The shortfall is enough to trigger the operation of the second part of paragraph 14.

 

The forthcoming general election is an opportunity for local residents to send a clear message that the flood of speculative housing applications on greenfield sites in Cheshire must stop. Planning policy must change. Only a vote for Labour can send that message.

 

Bizarre Cheshire East Press Release http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/council_information/media_hub/media_releases/cheshire-east-wins-landmark-legal-judgement-for-residents-in-fear-of-housing-sprawl.aspx

SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT

https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2016-0078.html

 

 

SANDBACH NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

Sandbach Town Council finally agreed in July 2014 to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan - something I have been pressing for since the beginning of 2013.

For details of the Neighbourhood Plan, which was the second to be completed in Cheshire East, thanks to a fantastic community-led effort,  please visit http://www.sandbachneighbourhoodplan.org.uk/

 

The house building goldrush affecting Sandbach IS a party political issue. There is a clear party political divide between a Conservative policy of small centralised government and a Labour policy of devolving power to local authorities and a greater degree of state intervention. This is evident in planning where the Conservatives are promoting private industry to build more houses and allowing developers a great deal of flexibility in choosing the sites. The sites the developers choose are those which make the most money for private developers. Labour would give more power to councils and allow councils the financial freedom to borrow to build houses themselves. The Labour policy would not reduce the number of houses being built, but it would change the locations chosen. It would change the style of houses being built and it would enable the council to plan and fund the infrastructure necessary to support the new houses (schools, road improvements etc).

The clear party political principle is whether you want local government or private enterprise to determine when, where and what sort of houses are built.

This party political divide on principle is also evident in the education reforms promoting academy schools whereby a new school must have a private sector backer. In times when the council needs to build new schools to meet rising demand this causes all sorts of problems and many new schools are inappropriately located where the private enterprises want them and not where the real need is. We need a new primary school in Sandbach, but, under coalition government reforms, the council must find a private sector backer before deciding where and how the school will be built.

Once it is acknowledged that the problem of speculative housing applications is a party political issue, then the solution moves step closer. Eric Pickles could end the goldrush overnight simply by instructing Planning Inspectors to attach significant weight to ‘emerging’ Local Plans. At present the Conservatives choose not to do this, but we live in a democracy and if sufficient political pressure is brought to bear then they will be forced to change their mind or be voted out of office.

 

For details of the Lyons Housing Review see http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/agenda-2015/policy-review/the-lyons-housing-review

 

 

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, but I did manage to secure a condition that improvements to J17 of the M6, with an access to the new development off an enhanced roundabout, had to be implemented before any development took place. 

http://planning.cheshireeast.gov.uk/applicationdetails.aspx?pr=12/3948C&query=202dbd2f-7cc6-4094-8214-a085112f2433

 

 

Capricorn Business Park - Spring 2014

(bounded by M6, Old Mill Road and the wildlife corridor)

Why the Prospects Are Now Good

  1. 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.
  2. The government has agreed to pay for J17 improvements.
  3. There is now a clean slate for planning applications.
  4. There is a developer interested in (and owning/controlling) the whole site.

Of course the developers will not put forward plans for a business park when they have the prospect of being allowed to build houses. The developers will make a lot more money out of housing and so will argue for housing. However, I predict that once the Local Plan is in force making clear that housing will not be allowed for 20 years on the Capricorn Site then (and only then) the developers will come forward with plans for a decent business park.

 

Why Employment Only Sites in Sandbach Are 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 the Sandbach area. 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.

 

Why Nothing Has Happened in the Past

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 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. (See planning references 30578/1, 04/0128/OUT, 37773/3,  05/0502/FUL.)

 

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.

 

 

Financial Considerations

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.

Furthermore, the government has recently agreed to pay for J17 improvements, giving a £5m boost to the development.

 

I believe that there are uplift agreements in place for pockets of land on the wider Sandbach Heath site. As I said at the Strategic Planning Board meeting on 19 June 2013 regarding 50 houses off Hawthorne Drive , “I approached the developer who said that they wouldn’t make much profit from the site because of the terms of their agreement with the landowner. Locals tell me that would be Jack Iddon, a former councillor, some of you may know him. I understand Cllr David Brown was best man at his wedding. But that is not my concern. My concern is that Sandbach Heath is not getting the infrastructure improvements it needs and problems will be made worse by this development…. If you approve this application today, former councillor Jack Iddon makes a million and the people of Sandbach lose.”

 

The financial viability assessment prepared by Lambert Smith Hampton for the Capricorn site application shows that the residual land value for their scheme including houses is LESS than the land value for a business park!

6.1 We have used a residual approach to demonstrating the viability of the proposed scheme. Using the value and cost assumptions outlined above our appraisal shows a net land value with no allowance for affordable housing to be £4,502,222. This equates to a land value for the residential element of just £245,754 per net developable acre.

6.2 In our opinion this net value is comparable to land values for employment development, which we would expect to be a minimum of £250,000 per acre in a location close to an M6 motorway junction.

 

 

Public Support for a Decent Business Park

In the public consultation in 2012 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.

In the public consultation in 2013 the plans for houses on Sandbach Heath were overwhelmingly rejected and the plans for a business park were supported. There was also strong support for protecting and enhancing the wildlife corridor.

 

The results for Site Sandbach 1 in the consultation of summer 2013 support the previous findings. Out of 192 responses, 140 were against and only 25 in favour.

When you analyse the comments a clear picture emerges.

106 people said that the site by the M6 should be for employment only and a further 31 made positive comments about employment use

92 stressed the importance of the wildlife corridor

153 of the 192 said 700 houses was too many. That is more than the number of objections, because even some of the 25 supporting the plans said that 700 houses was too many.

 

 

Sam Corcoran MA(Oxon), FCA, CTA (Fellow)                                November 2013

Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East (covering the Capricorn Business Park site)

 

 

 

Housing Developments - Interim Planning Policy - Abandoned

Cheshire East Council has carried out a consultation on a Draft Revised Interim Planning Policy: the Release of Housing Land. The results of the consultation were not followed through and the policy was not properly implemented. The policy encourages small sustainable housing developments on greenfield land. A sustainable development should be one that does not depend on car journeys. People should be encouraged to walk or cycle to school, to the playground, to the doctor and to other facilities.

What constitutes a sustainable development for Cheshire East Council is defined in a footnote on page 10. Under this definition being within 500m of a cashpoint, post box, bus stop, public open space (i.e. waste ground) and within 1,000m of a pub constitutes a sustainable site. There are very few places in Sandbach that fail to meet these criteria are and if churches and church halls count as local meeting places, then most of the outskirts of Sandbach is covered for this as well. When ‘interpreting’ the guidance planning officers will add on 50% to the allowable distances, so that a school 1,500m away will count as a pass.

The Cheshire East draft policy defines a sustainable development as being within

2At least 5 of the following: a shop selling food or fresh groceries (500m); Post box (500m)

playground/amenity area (500m); Post Office (1,000m); bank or cashpoint facility

(1,000m); Pharmacy (1,000m); Primary School (1,000m); Medical centre (1,000m);

Leisure facilities (1,000m); Local meeting place/community centre (1,000m); Public

House (1,000m); Public Park or village green (1,000m); Public open space (500m); Bus

stop (500m); Railway Station (2,000m where geographically possible); child care facility

(nursery or creche) (1,000m).

 The definition as it stands is an open door to developments on every green field on the outskirts of Sandbach.

I urge people to object to this definition. Please email the following comments to ldfconsultation@cheshireeast.gov.uk

“Your definition of a sustainable site is far too weak. I suggest that the definition should be

at least 4 out of Primary School (1,000m), child care facility (nursery or creche) (1,000m), playground (500m), medical centre (1,000m), leisure facilities (1,000m)

plus at least 5 of the following : a shop selling food or fresh groceries (500m); Post box (500m); Post Office (1,000m); bank or cashpoint facility (1,000m); Pharmacy (1,000m); Local meeting place/community centre (1,000m); Public House (1,000m); Public Park or village green (1,000m); Public open space (500m); Bus stop (500m); Railway Station (2,000m)”

 

Please also respond to the consultation either through the rather cumbersome Consultation Portal at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan or by emailing ldfconsultation@cheshireeast.gov.uk

There is an accompanying sustainability appraisal document. This is a very turgid document which is very hard to make any sense of even for some one used to reading tax legislation.

The table on page 4 of the sustainability appraisal document is particularly obtuse, but when read carefully suggests that the level of public participation will only be set at Stage D (after the policy has already been set) and even then it is only the level of public participation that will be set

 Methodology

2.10 The Sustainability Appraisal process is closely related to the development of the Local Development Framework and is carried out in five different stages that correspond with the main stages in the preparation of a policy statement. The five stages are:

Stages involved in the production of a Sustainability Appraisal

Stage

Information

Stage A

This stage involves setting the context, and establishing a baseline for the Sustainability Appraisal process. This stage is contained within the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report for the Draft Interim Planning Statement, available alongside this document on the Cheshire East website.

Stage B

This stage of the Sustainability Appraisal involves the evaluation of the effects of the strategic options identified for the management of the key issues noted for inclusion in the Draft Interim Policy Statement. This stage is contained within this document.

Stage C

This stage involves the production of a Sustainability Appraisal report to present information on the effects of the Draft Interim Policy Statement. This stage allows formal consultation on the affects of the document; this stage is this document.

Stage D

This stage of the Sustainability Appraisal is to outline the public participation to occur for the document and the subsequent review of consultation responses and development of relevant changes. This stage should also, involve the establishment of the monitoring process to occur, to ensure the documents impacts are positive and have been correctly assessed. This stage is to be completed within this document, post consultation.

Stage E

This stage involves monitoring the significant effects of implementing the Draft Interim Policy Statement. This stage is to be completed as specified in Stage D following the introduction of the policy document.