Cheshire East Local Plan
Cheshire East Council has published its “Local Plan Strategy” and accompanying documents. This is in preparation for submission to the Secretary of State. This document sets out the strategy the Council wishes to adopt. The documents can be viewed here and it is possible to comment on the documents until 25/4/2013. Cheshire East wishes to restrict comments to the legal compliance of the plan and whether or not it is “sound”. “Soundness” is defined in the preface to the plan itself.
Appendix A of the Local plan defines housing distribution. Cheshire East has decided to impose a quota of 1,600 houses on Alsager, which represents a growth of at least 60% over the figure of 1,000 agreed in the Town Plan and is a 30% growth on the existing size of the town.
This figure may well be increased, depending on appeal decisions and future decisions of Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board (SPB).
Some points to note about the local plan are:
- Cheshire East Council has decided to ignore the representations of the Town Council and the objections of Residents and is promoting the White Moss Quarry as a Strategic Location with an initial 350 houses. The outstanding restoration order on the site, which would have provided amenities to the population of Alsager, appears to have been largely ignored. There is a current planning application outstanding on the White Moss for 1,000 houses. Adopting the White Moss Quarry as a Strategic location clearly adds Cheshire East support to the planning application
The Twyfords and Cardway site now has 550 houses allocated to the site.
The MMU site has 350 houses allocated. The commitment to retain education provision on the site has been removed. There is no commitment in the Local Plan to retain Sports fields or the best buildings on the site, ( e.g. Sports Hall, Dance Studio, Gymnasium). There is a reference to a sports and leisure hub linked to the leisure centre, which isn’t defined.
The plan also lists the sites already committed to Alsager:
Hall Drive – 109
Crewe Road – 65
but it seems clear that Rhodes Field (110) and Hassall Road (30) are included in the Local Plan totals, which together with the ones above accounts for 1,564 houses.
A second application for Hassall Road (34 houses) would bring the total to 1,598, which is very close to the 1,600 Cheshire East has stated in its Plan.
We are also awaiting the outcome of an Appeal, for 95 houses on Dunnocksfold Road, and a Judicial Review, for 160 houses on Sandbach Road North, which if the Developer’s are successful will increase the total number of houses for Alsager to 1853.
As stated above, the outcome of the planning application for White Moss is as yet unknown but this could potentially add another 650 houses. If the SPB decides to accept the proposal, which would be consistent with its recent decisions concerning Alsager, this brings the total to 2,503, representing a 45% growth of our town.
The tables below gives a breakdown of the numbers:
|White Moss||350||Planning application for 1,000 houses outstanding|
|Twyfords and Cardway||550|
|Crewe Road||65||Not in the plan but now accepted|
|Hassall Road||30||Not in the plan but now accepted|
|Rhodes Field||110||Not in the local plan but accepted by Cheshire East|
The following table shows other possible housing developments.
|Sandbach Road North||160||Judicial review|
|Dunnocksfold Road||95||Appeal decision outstanding|
|Hassall Road||34||Appeal outstanding|
|Close Lane||132||Second application refused, appeal decision outstanding|
|Additional White Moss||650||There is a current planning application for 1,000 houses on the White Moss Quarry. The Local Plan establishes the White Moss as a Strategic Location|
At the Dunnocksfold Road enquiry, it was clearly stated that in order to achieve its 5 year land supply, the Strategic Planning Board has been granting permission on sites which the Board itself considers to be poor. Our area has been suffering because of this policy and the pre-determined attitude and voting patterns of some members of the SPB. This appeal was the first opportunity for Cheshire East to defend its claim of a 5 year supply. However, no argument was presented by Cheshire East to the Inspector which justified that claim
It is unclear, because of its recent erratic decision making process, whether or not the SPB will continue to support speculative housing development in Alsager or if it will adhere to its own Local Plan and policies.
The current consultation phase of the Local Plan Process is your last chance to comment. We have the following points, which you might like to consider if you intend to comment on the plan or contact any of the people listed at the end of this document.
- The Local Plan is only of any use if there is a will to implement its content and uphold the principles contained within. For example, adopting the White Moss as a Strategic Location, which intrudes into the open countryside and creates a new large infill area clearly conflicts with a number of policies. The Strategic Planning Board has been passing planning applications which contravene planning policies in order to achieve its 5 year supply ( the claim that this supply has actually been achieved has yet to be verified).
The substantial increase in Alsager’s housing quota demonstrates that Cheshire East has paid little attention to the Town Plan or the wishes of residents. It became clear in the recent appeals that the Town Plan carries little weight in the planning process. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Town Plan exercise was a waste of time and money.
Based on previous experience, we have little confidence that elected politicians and planning officers will apply their own policies fairly and consistently when considering Alsager.
Taking into account the numbers outlined above, windfall sites, infill created by current decisions ( in particular White Moss) and the likelihood of further brownfield sites emerging, the eventual housing numbers in Alsager over the next 15 years could easily be in excess of 2,500.
As High Peak Borough Council is unable to achieve its housing quota, Cheshire East has taken on a commitment to build an additional 500 houses in our area to help them. What impact will that have on Alsager? More housing on White Moss? Cheshire East has been very selective when listening to neighbouring authorities. Alsager has always been considered an area of housing restraint to support regeneration activities in Stoke-On Trent and Newcastle Under Lyme. Objections to developments in Alsager from these authorities have been consistently ignored.
There has been a lack of political leadership at all levels in addressing either employment opportunities or the development of Alsager’s inadequate infrastructure to meet the demands of such a rapid growth in population. In fact efforts of the local community to try to create opportunities have been ignored. A good example of this is the current opportunity to bring a UTC to the MMU site sponsored by a major International Organisation which would like to establish an IT Development Centre alongside the UTC. This could mean 500 new IT and education jobs in Alsager. MMU and the elected leaders have demonstrated no interest in supporting this initiative. In fact, in its Local Plan, Cheshire East removed education from the possible uses of the MMU site.
Alsager has been used as a dumping ground for housing with a total lack of awareness or acknowledgement of its infrastructure problems, employment issues and service capacity. It is clear that Developers and Cheshire East want to turn Alsager into a predominantly commuter town off one of the most congested sections of the M6. It is unclear how the decisions that have been taken recognise the Council’s stated policy priorities on reducing carbon emissions and the need to travel or on community Health and Well-Being.
Cheshire East has not employed a planning process. It has been driven by the speculative desires of developers and a political agenda set by Cheshire East leaders. The wishes of Alsager residents expressed through the Town Plan and objections to the various proposals have been largely ignored.
You can comment on the Local Plan here.
You may also wish to consider writing to:
Fiona Bruce, our MP here
Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East here
David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East and responsible for producing the Local Plan here.
Town Council: Andrew Brennan – Town Clerk
firstname.lastname@example.org or see the council web site here