Local Plan Developments.
On local radio yesterday, it was announced that David Brown, the deputy leader of Cheshire East will be replaced by Councillor Peter Raynes. This follows a motion put forward by Councillor David Brickhill(Ind), stating “In view of the state of the Local Plan, this council no longer has any confidence in the portfolio holder responsible for it.” David Brown has been responsible for the Local Plan since 2009. The examination of the Local Plan was recently halted by the Inspector for at least 6 months after he identified a number of serious shortcomings.
According to the Radio broadcast, this exercise has already cost Cheshire East Ratepayers £3.7m. This total does not include the cost of lost appeals brought about by the lack of a Local Plan, which could bring that total cost to well over £5m.
Unsurprisingly, the leader of Cheshire East has not accepted responsibility for this situation and for the continuing impact on Cheshire East residents. ARAG is not aware of any changes being made to the Strategic Planning Board or the Cheshire East Planning Department, the bodies within Cheshire East Council responsible for planning decisions. These decisions, have often been very inconsistent, sometimes politically driven and occasionally quite bizarre.
It is to be hoped that the various coalitions within Cheshire East now make their main focus ‘answering the questions and concerns identified by the Government Inspector’ rather than pursuing a course of action or rhetoric intended to preserve their position in light of the forthcoming election
Alsager has been on the receiving end of this debacle, with an anticipated housing level well in excess of 2,000 for the next 20 years. See an analysis here. The Town Strategy ( draft and adopted ), produced by the Town Council and agreed with Cheshire East, defined a limit of 1,000 houses for Alsager over the next 20 years. Over the last 2 years it has become increasingly clear that the Town Strategy carries no weight at appeal or with Cheshire East. In fact the Town Strategy and its draft were regularly used against Alsager in the appeals and Cheshire East increased Alsager’s housing quota by 60% without any local agreement or discussion.
We would argue that Cheshire East urgently needs to take the best possible legal and professional advice it can, to stop this appalling waste of money and to establish some level of control over housing developments within the Borough. Currently, Developers are determining the outcomes of planning proposals with little to no consideration of the impact on Communities. This disgraceful situation is likely to continue until Cheshire East can submit an acceptable Local Plan which credibly demonstrates a 5 year supply of housing.
The Alsager Town Council, which recently voted unanimously against producing a Neighbourhood Plan, will reconsider its position at the next planning meeting. We will give details on that meeting and its likely impact nearer the time.