Campaigns for Alsager

Campaigns for Alsager

Background

Alsager is facing an unprecedented wave of speculative building proposals for development of sites which are not included in the Town Plan. Furthermore, MMU has stated that it is intent on maximising its financial return from the Alsager Campus site. MMU wishes to ‘dispose of our assets in Alsager’.  It has no interest in any problems this might create for the community and the  MMU agent, DTZ intends to demolish buildings and dig up Sports Fields in order to build as many houses as possible.

The Alsager Town Strategy is clear, we have identified sites and a target number of houses (1,000) to be erected over the next 20 years. The underlying principle is that we should build on Brownfield before Green .

In recent weeks, the Hassall Road development proposal, which Cheshire East had previously rejected, was the subject of an appeal. The developer chose to argue that the Cheshire East justification of a 5 year Land Supply is flawed. This justification is contained in a document called the Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The Inspector in charge of the appeal chose to defer any decision on the SHLAA until the end of May. In the meantime, an appeal has been launched by the developer of the Sandbach Road North proposal, using the same 5 year argument.

The point about the 5 year supply is that if a council is unable to demonstrate a 5 year supply, through their Local Plan, the National Policy Planning Framework ( NPPF, introduced by the current government ) states that preference must be given to the developer.

The Government is not prepared to relax these conditions and there are numerous examples around the country of entirely inappropriate developments taking place because of this rule.

Cheshire East is fighting these proposals and defending their decisions to reject inappropriate development. It is clear however that the developers are committing substantial resources to squash Community and Council objections and that Government will not intervene to stop the unthinkable from happening.

A good local example of how ridiculous things can become is that of Loachbrook Farm in Congleton. Cheshire East said development should never take place there and rejected the developer’s proposal. The developer appealed and the Inspector overturned Cheshire East’s decision. Cheshire East challenged that decision through the courts and lost. This meant then that Cheshire East used Ratepayers’ money to fight for what was right and the Government successfully defended their case using taxpayers’ money to achieve something that even the inspector himself said should not happen. He had no choice, he said, because of the 5 year rule.  Millions of pounds wasted on something that should never have happened in the first place.

Although the NPPF makes a lot of Localism and the ability of Communities to shape their environments, it has become clear that Community needs and aspirations do not carry significant weight and that Central Government will not protect Communities from inappropriate developments.

Campaigns

ARAG is a campaigning organisation our strength is in our membership and how effectively we can act as a group. In the coming weeks, we need to mount several campaigns and it is important to realise that we have a short time and one immediate opportunity to challenge uncontrolled and speculative development as well as government policies which help developers to destroy green fields and make a mockery of the much vaunted ‘Localism’.

ARAG will be asking for your support in the coming weeks hopefully our combined efforts will make a difference.

Recruitment.

Since starting ARAG membership through the web site, we have managed to increase the number of objections made significantly. Recently, the membership numbers have been static and we need to raise the numbers as much as possible. Will all members please talk with friends and neighbours and get a many as possible to sign up. In this way we will be able to maintain regular contact and better organise community efforts.

The MMU Campus.

ARAG believes that all building on the MMU campus should be within the footprint of the original buildings. Valuable buildings, erected using public money, should not be destroyed but retained for community use. Furthermore, ARAG believes that all of the Sports fields, probably the best in South Cheshire should be retained.

ARAG has developed an approach based on the establishment of a University Technical College for 14 – 18 year olds and a mixed development. This was presented to the Town Council as one way to achieve their stated objectives for the site. The Alsager Sports and Recreation Association (ASRA) also supports this proposal as if it can be achieved, it will also provide a mechanism to retain the MMU campus Sports Facilities.

The Town Council is considering this approach and it will be discussed at their meeting on 14/5/2013. 

There are of course significant problems to overcome and ARAG would prefer a collaborative approach that supports these ideas and works towards retaining a tremendous asset for Alsager. There is currently no clear alternative to achieving the desired results.  ARAG will support ASRA and any planned approach that retains the facilities for the benefit of Alsager.

Make your view known.

Before the meeting on the 14th, please let your Town Councillors know your views on the MMU campus. ARAG would appreciate hearing them as well.

You can get Town Councillor contact information here:

or make contact through the Town Clerk here:

Fiona Bruce, our MP has been consistently supportive of this proposal and we believe that it is very important for Residents to write to her, acknowledging her support and expressing their views on MMU campus development. Please write to her.

Postal Address:

Fiona Bruce MP
House of Commons
Westminster
London
SW1A 0AA

A letter is better but she can also be contacted at fiona.bruce.mp@parliament.uk