Local Plan Halted.

Local Plan Halted.

As reported in a recent Alsager Chronicle article here, the Government Planning Inspector, Mr. Pratt, has halted the public hearings and declared the Cheshire East Local Plan unsound. He has also suggested that it could be withdrawn.

Mr Pratt said in his report that if the council did try to proceed that “he would conclude that the submitted plan is unsound”.

His report can be viewed here.

The reasons given for his decision:

  •  Serious mismatch between economic strategy and the housing strategy.
  • Unduly pessimistic economic strategy
  • Inadequate level of future housing provision
  • Flawed process and evidence relating to changes in the green belt boundary in the North of the Borough.
  • Forecasts using questionable assumptions and figures
  • Fails to take into account housing for older people, special needs and affordable housing
  • Evidence in assessing housing need unclear and confused
  • Optimistic assumptions made in calculating the 5 year housing supply
  • Failure to consider opportunities for job growth.

are not new. It gives us no satisfaction or pleasure to state that the Inspector’s response to the Local Plan vindicates what ARAG and its planning consultants have been saying for the last 2 years.

A perfect example of this is the ARAG MMU proposal. ARAG’s proposal involved :

  • accommodation for the elderly,
  • affordable homes,
  • 500 new jobs and a sponsor committed to delivering them,
  • a University Technical College and
  • a Community Sports facilities together with an infrastructure to support them.

That opportunity has now been lost, Cheshire East leadership ignored and blocked the proposal and would not engage in discussions to bring these jobs to Alsager. Furthermore, the current Local Plan states that the sports facilities will be moved to Crewe over time. Other than the fact that “things like that will not happen in Alsager “, there has been no justification for this behaviour. There are several other examples of inconsistent and bizarre decision making, especially when it means dumping more housing in our area, with no additional employment or infrastructure.  Cheshire East has been well aware of the Local Plan shortcomings since the first lost appeal over a year ago.

This situation means that Cheshire East is defenceless against speculative planning proposals, whether they are on Brownfield or Greenfield sites. Cheshire East leadership and our Cheshire East councillors are promoting the idea that a Neighbourhood plan will save the day. This of course is an obvious distraction, as planning permission will already be granted for some 2,000 houses in Alsager, already double our agreed allocation ( see here ) and we can expect significantly more than that.

Cheshire East inherited a strong situation where a Local Plan was in force, the Congleton Borough Local Plan, and rather than developing that to conform with the new legislation, it decided to abandon it and start from scratch.

Since 2010, Cheshire East has failed to deliver an adopted Local Plan or demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing. This situation will continue for the foreseeable future, and possibly for another two years. Bearing in mind that a general election happens in 2015 and this could further impact progress, Alsager will get housing (3,000 in the next 20 years?) according to Developer priorities, without any coherent planning or control.

In other words, we have no protection. We have been badly let down by our political representatives at all levels, both nationally and locally.