COMMUNITY CONSULTATION REPORT

Alsager Chronicle Article – Thurs 16th June 2016

Many of you will have seen the front page newspaper article entitled “Council criticised in neighbourhood plan consultation” in Thursday’s edition of the Alsager Chronicle and wondered what on earth is going on.

One Councillor is reported to be “quite disappointed that it has been perceived that there is a proxy war over who controls Alsager”… and later said …”there was a lot of time spent on scoring points over ARAG (Alsager Residents Action Group) than looking at the points in the report. I am  disappointed there was not more debate on the report as it contained some interesting stuff.”  The report being considered was the Community Consultation Report produced by Cheshire Community Action and paid for the Town Council as part of their process for producing a Neigbourhood Plan. The report can be seen in full by clicking here.

The newspaper article goes on to say that “In an original, unaltered version of the report seen by the Chronicle, Cheshire Community Action said that ARAG had “strongly influenced this consultation process and its negative focus will not help encourage people to come forward and support initiatives from the town council.” This ‘unaltered’ copy of the report can be seen here.

Reference to this ‘unaltered’ report will show that Observation 2, on page 17, claims that several attendees at drop-in events had reported that a local group called ARAG had either told them what to write on their survey response or told them not to attend the drop-in events. When contacted by ARAG’s Vice Chairman, the report’s author (John Heselwood) told him that ‘one or two’ people had said this.

You will be aware that ARAG simply put out a single post, entitled ‘Too Little – Too Late’, (still accessible on our web site) which simply recorded the observation and questions put to us by many local residents. No ARAG officer or spokesperson has made any statement of the kind referred to in the ‘unaltered’ report and we await evidence to support such claims.

Finally, only 6% of residents responded to the survey but the Town Council have decided to press on anyway and have budgeted for up to £25,000 in costs.

NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING

TOO LITTLE – TOO LATE

We are putting up this Post following the comments we have received, from Alsager residents across the community, in response to the questionnaire posted through letterboxes entitled Alsager Neighbourhood Plan – Have Your Say.

We note that potential respondents could live outside Alsager because the questionnaire does not require any indication of where you live and there is no identification of the area to be included in a Neighbourhood Plan. Multiple responses could be made so the survey fails to meet basic standards for a ‘scientific’ or even accurate methodology.

ARAG supporters will remember that we posted on this topic in September 2014 and the information is still available on our website under ‘Current Matters’.

The following observations and questions recorded below, from residents of Alsager, go some way to giving a flavour of the responses made to us.

  • Why are we not being asked, simply, if we want a NP or not? There is no space to say NO. There is no information about cost to us as Tax Payers or any sense of the benefits that a NP might have to offer
  • In particular there is a widespread view that this is about 4 years too late. Alsager has just been used by Cheshire East Council as a “dumping ground for developers.”
  • Councillors are now trying, too late, to remedy a situation that was made possible by their failure to competently represent the community they are elected to represent with most of the Town Councillors guilty of inaction.
  • Cheshire East Council has allowed developers free rein when permission has all too easily been granted by not enforcing conditions attached to sites (affordable housing, provision for the elderly and disabled etc).
  • We are now being asked to give a blank cheque for the development of a NP when the same Town Council refused to spend money at a time when a survey of Alsager’s infrastructural and highways needs and problems might have given residents, and council tax payers, some protection from rampant speculative development.
  • The Town Council has consistently refused to engage with the community or even to listen to it preferring instead to promote their own agenda and vanity projects. This has been the case even when requests have been fully researched, significant community support acquired and even at the expense of much needed jobs for the ‘neighbourhood’
  • The Town Council has told us repeatedly that they are not responsible for planning matters and that they have little influence as an ‘advisory’ body. Why then do we need a planning committee particularly one that is as limited in its level of competence and knowledge of planning law as the Town Council?
  • Given that a NP is required to nominate where development should take place and cannot be used to block building one must ask the question “Where is there left to build?”

Information Note:

The houses already approved, already in the Local Plan or pending approval is 2,449 with the possibility of a further 250 at White Moss giving a grand total of 2,699, which represents a 50% growth of the town without any planned infrastructure improvements.

Many have contacted us displaying anger and frustration, some even saying that they have torn up or otherwise disposed of their forms. We would encourage you to return your forms, possibly ignoring the questions of which many are irrelevant.

If you believe that it is TOO LITTLE – TOO LATE  you can simply say NO to a Neighbourhood Plan.

ALSAGER CHRONICLE LETTERS

CHRONICLE LETTERS MIS-REPRESENTATION

ARAG has recently responded to two letters from Councillor Derek Hough which appeared in consecutive issues of the Alsager Chronicle. We did this because his letters misrepresented what actually happened at the recent Local Plan Hearings, held at Macclesfield Town Hall; in particular he claimed “During the debate I was able to clarify the position regarding Alsager being an ‘area of restraint’. In the old Congleton local plan review of 2005 Alsager was classed as an area of restraint to help the regeneration of the potteries.”

In fact, Councillor Hough played absolutely no part in this ‘debate’ which took place entirely between the Inspector, Cheshire East’s Head of Strategic Planning (Adrian Fisher) and ARAG. Given the high level of formality of these Hearings there is no possibility of any confusion on this matter. Secondly, Councillor Hough implies that he raised a range of concerns about Alsager ‘highways infrastructure’. He did not.

The Alsager Highways Study was focused upon during two sessions on the final day of the Hearings, when two of us were present, but Councillor Hough failed to attend.

You can view our response letters here and here

No one at ARAG has any interest whatever in ‘claiming the credit’ for having clarified the ‘area of restraint ‘ policy, identifying the risks associated with changes to Green Belt policy or for having represented the community’s concern about the highways infrastructure.

We did what we did as a voluntary act of ‘community spirit’. We do not think it is appropriate for Councillor Hough to misinform the community about the role he played or to accuse any of us of lacking community spirit. We regard this whole matter as incredibly childish and lacking in professional integrity.

Over the last three years we have experienced, both individually and collectively, repeated examples of this kind of behaviour from Councillor Hough. This is possibly the worst one.

We will, therefore, play no further part in public exchanges with Councillor Hough.

It is our view that honesty and integrity remain important values in public life, especially from those who are elected to represent the community and receive payment for doing so, and this kind of behaviour is a clear example of failure to meet proper standards.

Alsager residents must be free to make up their own minds about such behaviour but we would suggest that any statements about ARAG or any of us as individuals, from this Councillor, should be treated with a large measure of scepticism.

TOWN COUNCIL 10% RATE RISE

TOWN COUNCIL 10% RATE RISE

Alsager Town Council are meeting tonight, Tuesday 17th November 2015, 7.15pm at the Alsager Institute on Green Drive (off Sandbach Road North) to discuss their Draft Budget for the Financial year 2016/17 which proposes a 10% increase in the Precept ( the amount they collect from us as Council Tax payers). The Precept will be £319,000 after using £11,111 from reserves so the actual planned spending is £330,111, an increase of £40,000 year on year.

You can read the whole 34 page document by clicking here.

This follows directly from an 11.5% increase last year and represents a 10 fold increase in expenditure since 2002/03 when the precept was £33,000. Spending will have increased by £130,000 since the Town Council took ownership of the Civic and if that was not enough a payment of £6,515 per year for a Public Works Loan has been included, presumably for more spending on this building. (Such loans would normally be for a minimum period of 20 to 25 years) A sum of £30,000 has also been earmarked towards the production of a Neighbourhood Plan but this has been tucked away in Reserves, money that can be called down whenever the Council deems it appropriate, but without it showing in their planned expenditure Budget.

Interestingly, the final page of the Draft Budget (page 34) is a comparison of Town Council Precepts since 2000/01 to 2016/17 and we have included it below for those who do not wish to read the complete document. These are their figures not ours, but we have added the column headings, and a note at the bottom, for the sake of clarity.

 

COMPARATIVE TOWN COUNCIL PRECEPTS

Year    Precept      Tax Base details used to calculate the actual Council Tax per Household.

00/01  £33,000     Tax Base – 5,304.13 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 1999

01/02  £33,000     Tax Base – 4,322.36 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2000

02/03  £33,000     Tax Base – 4,426.64 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2001

03/04  £36,000     Tax Base – 4,418.44 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2002

04/05  £48,000     Tax Base – 4,477.68 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2003

05/06  £48,000     Tax Base – 4,466.21 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2004

06/07  £57,000     Tax Base – 4,456.60 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2005

07/08  £112,000    Tax Base – 4,470.90 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2006

08/09  £136,000    Tax Base – 4,504.33 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2007

09/10  £192,000    Tax Base – 4,529.37 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2008

10/11  £192,000    Tax Base – 4,535.98 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2009

11/12  £200,000    Tax Base – 4,535.98 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2010

12/13  £270,000    Tax Base – 4,548.24 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2011

13/14  £270,000    Tax Base – 4,187.27 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2012

14/15  £260,000    Tax Base – 4,187.27 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2013

15/16  £290,000    Tax Base – 4,255.33 Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2014

16/17  £319,000    Tax Base – TBC Band D equivalent properties – Dec 2015

 

Note: The actual Council Tax being paid in 2015/16 (Band D Property) is £68.15

Local Plan Hearings – Week 2

Local Plan Examination: Update

Introduction

The formal adoption of a Local Plan by Cheshire East Council is of much greater significance for the future of development in Alsager than any Neighbourhood Plan. This is a legal matter and beyond question. Anyone who contends otherwise has not done their homework and is promoting a Neighbourhood Plan for their own ends rather than those of the community.

Let us be quite clear: a Neighbourhood Plan cannot stop already-approved development – at most all it could achieve is drawing attention to infrastructural issues related to cumulative development and perhaps influence some developers to improve the qualitative nature of their house-building. Both of these objectives can be pursued in other ways without the expense and distractions of a Neighbourhood Plan. Moreover, a Neighbourhood Plan must conform to the strategic policies of the Local Plan and if these are still open to challenge and debate – as they are in the Cheshire East region – there seems little point in expending valuable time and resources on a Neighbourhood Plan.

This is why ARAG (Alsager Residents Action Group) sought to represent Alsager residents at four of the sessions in which the Government’s Inspector, Stephen Pratt, considered the additional work of Cheshire East Council following the suspension of the original Local Plan Examination last November on the grounds that he considered the submitted Local Plan to be ‘unsound’. He now has to consider whether he judges that the additional work undertaken by the Council has sufficiently addressed his concerns in order to resume the Examination during 2016. He plans to publish his judgements on these matters by mid-December.

This means that, even if the Inspector judges that there is sufficient evidence now to proceed with the Examination, the earliest date at which the Local Plan could be adopted is December 2016 and, more likely, at some point in 2017. Since there were significant challenges to the Council’s additional work, the outcome of the last week’s hearings is far from certain.

It should be noted that other communities were regularly represented by elected representatives of their Town Councils, especially Poynton, Knutsford and Wilmslow with Councillors in attendance at every session. This was not the case for Alsager. There was evidence that Town Councillors from other communities had collaborated in making their cases in a coordinated way. (We should note that Councillor Hough did put in an appearance for one morning session, in his capacity as a Cheshire East Councillor.)

There was one consistent theme on which there was unanimity amongst Developers, their QCs, Town Councils, community and interest groups – there had been no attempt at public consultation during the eleven months of the Examination suspension period and it is possible that this has led to the extremely high number of representations both in terms of correspondence and during these most recent Hearings by the Inspector. It was clear, therefore, that not a great deal of common ground had been established.

 

What were the issues?

This Report should be read in conjunction with the report previously published on the ARAG website regarding the first week of the Hearings and in particular the session on Housing Requirement.

The Inspector’s Interim Findings in November 2014 had highlighted the following issues:

  • A mismatch between economic strategy/Jobs growth and housing strategy
  • A failure to review the Green Belt especially in the North of the Borough
  • A failure to consider sufficiently the development needs of the northern settlements

There were other issues but it can be reasonably argued that these three are of particular significance for the southern towns, especially Alsager and Sandbach which both have the highest housing development increases by far within the borough.

Review of the Green Belt: (Tuesday 27th October; 10.00 am – Macclesfield Town Hall)

The purpose of this Hearing was to review the Cheshire East’s proposed changes to their Green Belt Policy, intended to address the Inspector’s concerns regarding the disproportionate allocation of housing between the North and South of the Borough.

Derek Bould attended to express concern about the possible un-intended consequences resulting from these proposed policy changes.

Currently there are two areas of Green Belt, the significantly largest one being in the North with a much smaller ribbon of Green Belt in the South. The Northern Green Belt effectively surrounds Knutsford, Wilmslow, Poynton and much of Macclesfield. The Southern Green Belt is to the south of Alsager, Scholar Green and Congleton and forms part of a much larger Green Belt across the northern area of Staffordshire.

Cheshire East proposes that these two main areas of Green Belt are sub-divided into a total of 401 smaller parcels and each parcel is effectively scored on the ‘contribution’ it makes to the Green Belt as a whole. In their summary of changes to their Local Plan submission, Cheshire East say “Lesser contribution parcels clustered around Macclesfield and Wilmslow in the North and Scholar Green further south.”

The Inspector is looking to increase housing in the North but now we find that Cheshire East are identifying ‘parcels’ which are part of the Southern Green Belt.

If Fanny’s Croft were to be considered to be a parcel that makes a lesser contribution, to the Southern Green Belt, then this new policy could be used by developers to gain planning permission; remembering that Cheshire East still does not have a ‘5 year Supply of Available Housing Land’.

Councillors from the northern towns are obviously aware of this loophole because a number of them made the point that the South Cheshire Green Belt is only a small part of a much larger green belt area throughout North Staffordshire. Implying that losing part of our green belt would only have a small effect on the overall size of the green belt area.

They are happy to give up Green Belt as long as it is our Green Belt in the South.

 

Spatial Distribution of Development: (Thursday, 29th October 10.00am- Macclesfield Town Hall)

The issue of spatial distribution of house-building is a key concern for Alsager. Unfortunately, the repeated failure of Cheshire East Council to deliver a five-year supply of housing land has led to the loss of numerous Greenfield sites to Developers over the last two years. Currently there are 18 potential house-building sites within or on the boundary of Alsager (e.g. White Moss; Close Lane) and there are signs that this could grow to about 25 sites with planning permission in the near future likely to be granted for additional developments proposed on Dunnocksfold and Close Lane as well as Hall Drive.

Neither the Local Plan nor a Neighbourhood Plan will make any difference to this situation. Indeed, the Inspector commented in one session last week that even if there were to be an adopted Local Plan in December 2016, in January there could be a successful Appeal upheld for yet more development if the Council still cannot demonstrate a five-year supply. Furthermore, most of the speculative development in Alsager has now been absorbed into the Local Plan which means that we don’t have a Resident’s Plan for our town; instead we have Developer’s Plans forced upon us and eagerly accommodated by Cheshire East.

Turning to the bigger picture, it is now clear that there is a significant imbalance between the northern and southern settlements in terms of projected house-building. More than 20,000 houses are scheduled for development in South Cheshire during the Local Plan period until 2030 and less than half that in the north including Macclesfield. Much of the Council’s rationale for this imbalance has been the constraint of the northern green belt and obviously representatives of Knutsford, Wilmslow and Poynton have played on this to defend their communities from further development. The problem is that jobs growth is largely in the North of the borough.

To give a flavour of the debate in this session, Alsager representatives (Derek Bould and Derek Longhurst) argued the case that the current strategy was unsustainable in terms of infrastructure, especially employment, and would exacerbate out-commuting which in turn created significant issues of highways infrastructure. The Council seemed to be planning for the possible development of HS2 – not as yet at all certain – but not for the actual on-going development of Airport City in the Poynton area. The response from a Wilmslow Councillor was that the Airport City jobs would be low wage jobs which meant that such people would not be ‘able to afford Wilmslow house prices’. One obvious answer might be, therefore, that this constitutes a very good case for building affordable homes in the Northern settlements?

Much of the debate in this session focused upon the methodology employed by the Council and its consultants to arrive at the Local Plan spatial distribution proposals. They had examined the evidence for five different options and then chosen Option 6 which appeared to be a blend of options 3, 4 and 5. This has led to a small swing of 7% increase in house-building for the northern settlements. To give Alsager residents some idea of what this means in practice, the overall increase in house-building for the three settlements of Poynton, Wilmslow and Knutsford is about 50% of what is scheduled for Alsager alone. It was argued, for instance, by the Poynton Councillor that there was no justification for its increase in allocation from 200 houses to 650 houses – an increase of 200%. As Alsager and Poynton are broadly similar in size, I am sure that many Alsager residents would willingly swap as Alsager has the highest percentage increase in the region followed closely by Sandbach.

Derek Bould made the following points about spatial distribution, with respect to Alsager:

  • Infrastructure – in theirSpatial Distribution Update Report’, Cheshire East’s consultants (AECOM) clearly state “The spatial distribution focuses development into those areas that are best supported by infrastructure, services and facilities (ie the Principal Towns and Key service Centres).”

How can Alsager, which is identified in the Local Plan as a Key Service Centre, possibly satisfy this stated aim when our Infrastructure is already totally inadequate; without another 2000 houses which are now in their ‘Plan’.

Similarly, in Cheshire East’s own statement on ’Spatial Distribution of Development’ it says “A critical factor in determining which locations would be well-placed to accommodate development was the ability to secure infrastructure improvement schemes that would mitigate the effects of development,……Where transport schemes have already been proposed to achieve this, further development is therefore easier to justify.” (It goes on to give the Middlewhich Bypass and Congleton Link Road as examples.)

Alsager doesn’t have a Bypass, doesn’t have one planned or even any significant proposals included in Cheshire East’s Infrastructure Support Plan.

Alsager’s Infrastructure simply cannot accommodate the housing development already approved in our town by Cheshire East Planners.

 

  • Employment – as already referred to above, Cheshire East’s response to the Inspector’s comments about the lack of housing in the North of the Plan area, is a proposed swing of 7% from South to North. Increasing the North’s share from 23% to 25% of the total housing allocation. (But at the same time the proposed total housing is to increase from 27,000 to 36,000 so our share does not reduce in actual numbers, it increases.)

In the same paragraph they go on to say “In terms of additional employment land put forward in the suggested revisions (to the Local Plan) the proposed split is 66% directed to the North with 17% directed to the South”.

So the North has 25% of the Housing and 66% of the Employment Land while the South has 57% of the Housing and 17% of the Employment Land.

Yes, that’s right, they get the jobs but not the houses and we get the Houses and not the jobs.

Derek Longhurst had raised questions concerning the historical policy of an ‘area of restraint’ in relation to Alsager deriving from the days of Congleton Borough Council and sought to clarify whether this was now a ‘dead’ concept. Adrian Fisher confirmed that it was. He suggested that Stoke and Newcastle Councils had not objected to any of the Local Plan allocations and cited the reduction of White Moss from 1000 to 350 houses – although for how long such a reduction will actually be enforced is anyone’s guess.

 

Further Issues: (Friday, 30th October – 10.00am -6.00 pm- Macclesfield Town Hall)

Rafe Wakelin and Derek Longhurst attended the final day’s session on behalf of the Alsager community. It was rather notable that none of our Borough Councillors or Town Councillors saw fit to attend this session as Alsager Highways Infrastructure was a central item on the Inspector’s Agenda.

Derek Longhurst indicated that he had attended all eight of the Appeals related to Alsager sites and at none of them had the Council produced any highways analysis or evidence. This had been left to residents and the ARAG representatives. Furthermore the Council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan underpinning the Local Plan was totally inadequate concerning Alsager. All it referenced were 2-3 junctions that might be over-capacity at some point in the future. Since 2013 he has been asking for the kind of ‘strategic step’ described by Mr Fisher in relation to what was being developed in Congleton but had met with a lack of interest from the Council despite the clear evidence of the cumulative impact of the numerous developments being imposed on Alsager.

Eventually the Council had commissioned a Highways Study for Alsager but this was flawed as it was entirely a desk-based study and restricted once again to analysing solely junction capacity. As the consultants who undertook this analysis commented themselves, this analysis did not take account of traffic flows and corridors. Moreover, the Report takes a somewhat cavalier attitude towards the issues constituted by the two Level Crossings in the Town arguing that queuing will be increased but that the Level Crossings will remain adequate. The Report does confirm, however, what Alsager residents have been telling the Council for two years: the highways infrastructure is inadequate to meet the level of development projected for Alsager.

Derek also pointed out that the A500 had not been included in the Council’s analysis of Highways Infrastructure in relation to cross-boundary traffic issues. It was confirmed that there had been no analysis of the southern highways in relation to development and all of the focus had been on the northern highways in the borough. When it was argued that the A500 was owned by the Highways Authority, Derek pointed out that the Highways Authority was not building the 20.000 houses in South Cheshire which would suggest that Cheshire East Council cannot deny its responsibilities.

A further Alsager-specific matter also arose in relation to the future development of the MMU site. A question had been raised by another witness relating to the Council’s Sports Strategy and whether it would be adopted and published before the Local Plan was adopted. This provided the opportunity to raise the issue of ‘mixed use’ on the MMU site and the preservation of both indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Derek argued that the Council should see this as a priority within the Local Plan as opposed to an approach which was focused on building a further 435 houses on the site, especially given all of the other development now scheduled for Alsager. There is a danger that important sports facilities could be lost as the Council desperately seeks to build 36,000 houses in the plan period at the expense of everything else including the environment.

Rafe Wakelin commented on the wide-ranging critical views that had been expressed during the Local Plan Hearings and made the important point that the Planning Department at Cheshire East Council was not well-resourced. He expressed his appreciation for the hard work that had been undertaken by the Local Plan Officers. It was certainly remarkable that the elected Leadership of Cheshire East Council, including the portfolio holder, were not in evidence in terms of attendance at the Hearings. Many of the decisions that have most impacted on Alsager as a community have been the responsibility of the elected members rather than the Council Officers directly involved in preparing the Local Plan.

It should be noted that there was a very strong critical statement from Stockport Council during the session regarding the Local Plan development by Cheshire East Council – a statement that Adrian Fisher described as ‘very disappointing’ in the context of the work that had been undertaken between officers of the two councils.

 

Final Session

The Inspector asked the Council to think about

  • The scope and nature of public consultation – the lack of such systematic consultation during the suspension period had been a consistent theme raised by all representatives
  • The selection of strategic sites and how the evidence for them is now of some age and needs to be updated
  • The timetable for further development of the Examination would need to be reviewed – the Inspector indicated that he now anticipated that it would be mid-December rather than mid-November before he could give his views on all of the evidence that had been placed before him

Adrian Fisher summing up for the Council argued that

  • The borough had a complex geography which made plan-making complex
  • The purpose of the present procedure was to consider whether the additional work undertaken by the Council had adequately addressed the interim judgements of the Inspector published in November 2014.
  • The overwhelming objective is to get a Local Plan in place and this was in the public interest at large
  • Much of the debate and views expressed during the Hearings had focused upon the northern settlements whereas the central and southern settlements were crying out for a Local Plan ( This may be because of the wish of the Development Industry to create development in the northern settlements and the defence of those settlements and the green belt by local representatives and interest groups)

Summary by Stephen Pratt – the Local Plan Inspector

In his final summing up the Inspector made the following points:

  1. When he had developed his back-of-the-envelope timetable he did not know how much common ground there would be and it was now clear that there were ‘still outstanding issues and challenges’ – in other words still limited common ground in relation to the Local Plan
  2. He would have to consider all of the views he had heard carefully before reaching his interim judgements
  3. He will be reviewing and assessing whether the additional work undertaken by the Council adequately addresses the issues he had defined last year. He indicated that it was difficult to reach final judgements when there had been no public consultation and there was evidence still to be produced
  4. Decisions still had to be taken on the selection of further strategic sites
  5. He would not wish to prejudge or pre-empt views that might be expressed in public consultation
  6. He also noted that a significant meeting about Affordable Housing was yet to take place so there would be a delay in his interim judgements from mid-November to mid- December which suggested that public consultation may be delayed until the New Year. (During sessions several delegates had asked the Council not to hold the public consultation during the Christmas and New Year period)
  7. The Inspector indicated that he would accept no further evidence or correspondence as this round of Hearings is now closed.

RESUMPTION of LOCAL PLAN EXAMINATION

Local Plan Examination

Introduction

All local Planning Authorities such as Cheshire East Council have been required by government planning legislation (the NPPF – the National Planning Policy Framework) – passed by the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – to produce a Local Plan that addresses house-building and economic growth for the period 2010-2030.. All Local Planning Authorities were also required to demonstrate that they had allocated a five –year supply of housing land. Cheshire East Council has failed to demonstrate the latter despite it numerous claims to have done so. This has had catastrophic impact on Alsager in particular as it has meant that Development companies have been able to win appeals not because the site, usually Greenfield, is appropriate but because the Council is unable to identify the requisite supply in the Borough as a whole for houses that will meet future need and economic growth over the planning period until 2030.

Last year the Council had submitted a Local Plan that was meant to determine the locations and overall framework of development in the borough for the next fifteen years. This Local Plan has to be subjected to an Examination by the government’s Inspectorate and this process of examination was started in October 2014 but suspended in November when the Examination Inspector reached the conclusion that the Local Plan was ‘unsound’ as it stood. The Examination was suspended and has recently resumed so that the Inspector can assess whether the further work on the Plan undertaken by the Council is adequate to allow the Examination to proceed. The earliest date now by which we can expect an adopted Local Plan appears to be December 2016.

Housing Requirement

On Friday, 23 October the Inspector chaired an all-day session to explore the complexities of housing requirement. ARAG wished to ensure that Alsager residents were represented and the session was attended on our behalf, and that of residents, by Professor Derek Longhurst. During the day-long session he raised the following issues:

  • The mismatch between housing development and economic strategy, especially jobs growth, with significant levels of housing being allocated to the South of the borough while employers and the proximity of Manchester suggested evidentially that more development should be in the north of the borough.
  • Lack of employment opportunities in a town like Alsager which has potentially the highest percentage increase of housing in the borough
  • The impact on infrastructure in terms of sustainable development and the failure of the Council to address the issue of out-commuting on an inadequate highways infrastructure as well as on one of the most  congested sections of the M6 and A500.
  • The allocation of employment land is an inadequate policy initiative in that, for example, Developers can cite the unsuccessful marketing of the Twyfords site for years to employers.
  • The increased housing requirement in the Local Plan is undeliverable, increasing from 27000 to 36000 in the plan period; the Local Plan is essentially aspirational rather than realistic or deliverable. There were a lot of similar comments from other witnesses in the session
  • The Plan privileged economic growth at all costs including environmental impacts  especially in relation to transport and carbon emissions.
  • There was much debate about the ‘north-south’ divide with witnesses arguing that the Council had averaged its data leading to a lowest common denominator set of outcomes. The Council admitted that it had not addressed the North/South sub-markets and had taken a borough-wide approach but this was strongly challenged by witnesses with reference to the relationship between North Cheshire and South Manchester with such initiatives as Airport City. In response Adrian Fisher disputed the idea that North Cheshire is distinctive.
  • On Affordable housing Derek focused on the distinction between policy and implementation and the failure to deliver existing objectives let alone those of the Local Plan. Developers demonstrated time and again that they are primarily committed to the construction of 4/5 bedroom houses driven by profit margins on such housing.
  • He also sought to focus attention on the issue of provision of accommodation suitable for elderly persons , arguing that this should be both integral to the Local Plan and a matter for a specific policy initiative given the Council’s currently superficial approach to this housing requirement in Alsager for example. There was support from other witnesses for the Council to develop its specific policy and to require such appropriate accommodation to form part of some of the bigger strategic sites in the Local Plan such as the MMU site. Derek’s view is that this would not apply to White Moss as it would not seem appropriate to locate elderly persons’ accommodation on a site where air quality may be an issue.
  • The Inspector indicated some concern about whether the Council had done any significant analysis of its current supply of housing requirements for the elderly.
  • Witnesses expressed concern that the Council had not produced up-to-date figures so that progress could be realistically assessed now in relation to its aspirational objectives.
  • On the Greenbelt the Inspector pointed out that while 43% of the borough was Greenbelt, National Parkland or SSIs, 57% was not so constrained. Adrian Fisher compared Alsager and Poynton, the latter with almost no development in comparison to Alsager’s housing Levels despite the employment opportunities in the North.
  • Derek asked whether the historical ‘area of restraint’ was now a dead concept, in practice, and there was no immediate answer from Cheshire East. It was suggested that this would now be addressed under Spatial Distribution rather than ‘Duty to Co-operate’, the item under which it was raised on Friday. The Inspector did comment on the unusually high number of Appeals in the Cheshire East Council region, most of them successful as we know all too well in Alsager.

 

ARAG will keep you informed about any further important information or issues which ‘come to light’ during this series of Local Plan Hearings, scheduled to be completed by Friday 30th October 2015.

STORIES of ARAG’s DEMISE, DISMISSED

ARAG’s DEMISE MUCH EXAGGERATED.

We have realized that totally incorrect and misleading information has been circulated about the current situation regarding Alsager Residents Action Group and feel it necessary to make the true situation absolutely clear.

Because of our 100% attendance at Planning Appeals and attendance at Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board and its Southern Area Planning Committee we reached the conclusion that we were wasting hundreds of hours of our time, submitting evidence which was completely ignored, because Cheshire East’s decisions were entirely political. So we took a decision to stop attending the Planning Board/Committee and discontinue the constant updating of our website BUT we never concluded that ARAG would cease to exist, indeed we as officers do not have the authority to do this.

ARAG has continued to be fully involved with the Local Plan deliberations and continue to represent Alsager residents throughout the consultation period. Often we have been the sole Alsager representatives present although  lots of other organisations, Town and Parish Councils are there. We never cease to be amazed by the attitude, lack of commitment and capability demonstrated by our own Town Council.

We are currently attending the Inspector’s Hearings which will determine whether he considers East Cheshire have done enough for the Local Plan Examination to be resumed; following the presentation of new evidence provided by us among others. There are a number of areas which we will be challenging over the next few days but we will have to wait some weeks before we hear the Inspector’s decision about proceeding with the Examination.

The continued support we receive from members and residents is very much appreciated and it seems clear that they still see the organisation as a primary source of information as well as you keeping our group up to date with the many issues affecting Alsager.

Finally, we have had direct communication with Sainsbury’s, earlier this week, and they have stated very clearly that their Alsager Store is definitely going ahead.

 

RESPONSE TO MEMBERS QUESTIONS

Derek Longhurst’s Resignation.

ARAG has received many positive messages of support for Derek Longhurst which have shown appreciation for the outstanding contribution he made to representing our community and demonstrated a sympathetic understanding of his decision to resign.

Many of these response have asked if more detail can be made available regarding what actually happened and who was involved and so we have produced a ‘time line’ of the events which led to Derek’s decision to resign and resulted in the current position adopted by our organisation. Sadly the whole sorry saga started when ARAG was asked to represent the Town Council at a Cheshire East Planning Committee meeting.

  • During October 2014 Cheshire East’s Southern Area Planning Committee were scheduled to consider a planning application 13/4081C, for housing development on the CARDWAY CARTONS site at Linley, and ARAG registered to speak and prepared a presentation statement as it had done for all other housing development applications and appeals within Alsager.
  • On Tuesday 21st October 2014; ARAG learned that the Town Council had not registered to speak so we attended the scheduled Town Council Planning Committee meeting, that same evening, to ask if they had any additional points which they would wish us to include in our presentation. They were happy with the points which we had identified and asked us to speak on behalf of the Town Council in addition to representing ARAG. In a spirit of co-operation this was readily agreed to and their formal resolution is recorded as item 14/98 in their minutes. The Acting Town Clerk also notified Cheshire East that ARAG would be speaking as a representative of the Town Council. The ARAG presentation can be viewed Here and the minutes of the Town Council Planning Committee can be viewed Here.
  • The Cheshire East committee responded well to the points raised and the application was refused. Following our usual procedure, ARAG produced a Post to keep our members informed and this can be viewed HereWe received an almost immediate email response from Mrs Helliwell, too abusive to publish, which is archived in our extensive record system.
  • Ultimately the developers submitted a new application which, this time, significantly reduced the number of houses on green open space while at the same time providing improved facilities for young children. The Town Council Planning Committee, which has full delegated powers as an advisory body to the Local Planning Authority on such matters, decided not to object to the application but raised, largely at Derek’s request, a number of issues such as access and highways concerns that required further consideration.  This decision was forwarded to Cheshire East as is normal practice.
  • Councillor Sue Helliwell subsequently approached the Chairman of the Town Council and other Councillors and, we are led to believe, insisted that the matter be brought back before the Planning Committee seemingly because she had not been present at the previous meeting when the decision  ‘not to  object’ had been made. It was stated that many residents had approached her but none of the East Ward Councillors present at the subsequent meeting, including the Committee Chairman, indicated that they personally had been approached.
  • No special meeting was arranged and at the next scheduled Planning Committee meeting Councillor Helliwell failed to get the decision of the earlier meeting rescinded but verbally attacked Derek Longhurst; publically questioning his integrity, objectivity and professionalism. She also made sarcastic reference to an officer of ARAG who had previously assisted the Town Council in representing its views on the planning application under discussion (as explained above). This “tirade” was reported in the Alsager Chronicle.
  • Because Derek Longhurst immediately recognised that the Code of Conduct for Councillors had been breached he gently pointed out that members of the public, as well as councillors, should be treated with respect and courtesy and asked for the remarks to be withdrawn and a simple apology made. Clearly this was not forthcoming from Councillor Helliwell. Her ‘personal’ attack was deeply offensive in that Derek had thoroughly researched, unlike the rest of the Planning Committee, all the Cardway Application documentation on the Cheshire East website. He saw her behaviour as typical publicity seeking and more seriously divisive.
  • A short time after the above meeting; Derek Longhurst contacted the Town Clerk to voice his concerns over the breaches to the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. The Town Clerk indicated that he would arrange a meeting between himself, Councillor Longhurst, Councillor Helliwell and the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Councillor Colin Burgess and Derek agreed to this in the hope that the matter could be resolved by way of a simple apology.
  • The Town Clerk’s meeting took place on Wednesday 26th August 2015 and rather than being a constructive effort to resolve the issue it degenerated into a tirade about ARAG and Derek Longhurst was subjected to an unpleasant personal attack for “bragging about being a member of ARAG” on social media – a direct quotation repeated twice by Councillor Helliwell. Derek pointed out that he does not use Facebook, Twitter or any other form of social media. With some support from Councillor Burgess, Derek was described as having been seen ‘as a mouthpiece for ARAG’. What followed was even more outlandish, bizarre and totally unfounded allegations, from Councillor Helliwell, about specific named ARAG officers which ultimately have led to the current position adopted by our organisation. The actual claims made cannot be publicised at this time because ARAG currently has the matter under advisement; but rest assured that we will be monitoring this Councillor’s behaviour very carefully from this point on.
  • During the above meeting Councillor Burgess insisted emphatically that he had never asked the ARAG officer to represent the Town Council at the Cardway application. This information was passed to ARAG and our President wrote to the, recently appointed, Town Clerk to make him aware of the true facts of the matter. You may see his letter Here.
  • Derek Longhurst’s long professional career often involved the need to take detailed notes at meetings and this particular meeting was no exception. His notes were passed to the Town Clerk and also to the Chairman of the Town Council but he also felt that as a matter of honour he should inform the ARAG officers of the allegations made against them. Because the meeting had been declared as private, Derek could not do this without himself infringing the Code of Conduct, and because he felt that this was the final straw, he made the decision to resign from the Town Council so that he could pass on his record of the meeting to ARAG. The rest has been publicised and ARAG will seek to ensure that this bizarre and outrageous behaviour is not allowed to be ‘swept under the carpet’ and that the Town Council operates in a seemly and professional manner.

Derek Longhurst Resignation

Derek Longhurst Resignation

As you may be aware, Derek Longhurst has resigned from the Town Council.

Prior to being elected onto the Council, Derek did a lot of very useful research work with ARAG.

Over the last 3 years, he dedicated his skills, energy, professionalism and commitment to serving the Council and Alsager as a whole. He attended every Council meeting and represented the Town Council on numerous occasions at Cheshire East Planning Meetings. It is perhaps interesting to note that Derek Longhurst attended significantly more days of Government Planning Inspections than the rest of the Council put together, including our Borough Councillors.

The incident which precipitated his resignation was triggered by abusive, vindictive and unprofessional behaviour which took place during an internal Town Council meeting. Derek Longhurst submitted a detailed report of the meeting to the Town Council, which ARAG received after his resignation.

You can read about Derek Longhurst’s resignation and the reasons behind it here.

In addition to the personal abuse directed at Derek Longhurst, a number of false allegations were made concerning ARAG members. We take these comments very seriously and are taking appropriate advice which precludes us from making any comment at this time.

GREEN CANDIDATES

Election Candidate Post Edited.

Unfortunately in the rush to get the Election Candidate post out to members we inadvertently missed the two Green Party candidates from the summary, although they were included in the linked document. This oversight as now been corrected and we offer our sincere apologies to the Green candidates for this omission.

Election Candidates

Who is Standing for Election

The lists of candidates for the forthcoming elections for Cheshire East and Alsager Town Council have now been published.

The most important local election will be for Alsager’s 3 places on Cheshire East Borough Council. There are 3 Conservative candidates, 3 Liberal Democrat candidates, 2 Labour candidates, 2 Green candidates, 1 UKIP candidate and 1 Independent candidate. You can view the names of people nominated for election as the Cheshire East Borough Councillors for Alsager by clicking here .  

‘Residents may wish to ask where the majority of these candidates were during the last three years when the community has been besieged by Planning Applications, Appeals and SPB meetings to consider Development decisions in Alsager?’

You can view the names of people nominated for election as Town Councillors in the Central Ward here.  Four seats are available for Central Ward.

You can view the names of people nominated for election as Town Councillors in the West Ward here.   Four seats are available for West Ward.

The names of people nominated for election as Town Councillors in the East Ward can be viewed  here.   Because the candidates, who applied for the East Ward, did not exceed the available seats there will be no election contest, so these people have already been elected unopposed onto the Town Council.

ARAG has always been a non-political organisation and has never sponsored any local election candidates. However, we did support the Independent candidate for the Central Ward Bi-election in 2013 following formal interview to confirm that his aims and values were consistent with the position adopted by ARAG

Councillor Longhurst has made available his current aims, values and intentions regarding his candidacy for the Cheshire East Borough Council and Alsager Town Council elections and we are pleased to continue our support for him for these elections; we believe he will continue to do an excellent job of representing our Alsager community. You can view Councillor Longhurst’s own website here.

BIZARRE BEHAVIOUR

Local Plan – Protected Land

ARAG Officers have received a large number of complaints regarding the behaviour of Alsager Town Council Planning Committee on Tuesday 24th March when the Chairman refused to allow any discussion at all of an item on their agenda which had been included at the request of Independent Councillor Derek Longhurst.

The agenda item was seeking the committee’s support in obtaining an assurance from Cheshire East Council that Protected Land in the South West corner of the MMU Local Plan site would not be removed at the request of the site developer.

Discussion of the agenda item was refused on the grounds that the information presented was hearsay’ and Councillor Longhurst was refused any opportunity to question or challenge the Chairman’s bizarre decision. This decision, to reject the proposal, was taken without any attempt to verify whether or not conclusive evidence existed. It does, and is available to residents ‘and councillors’ on the ARAG web site.

Details of the agenda item, including a time-line of events, is available on Councillor Longhurst’s website and can be viewed here. He also wrote to our local MP Fiona Bruce, who has done precisely what was asked of the Town Council, and her reply is also available on Councillor Longhurst’s website here.

The information which formed the background evidence to the residents’ letter, to Councillor Longhurst, had been available on the ARAG website since 8th August 2014 and can be seen here.

To suggest that this information is ‘hearsay’ is a slur on the integrity of the residents who signed the letter, and is completely and factually wrong.

The information came from a meeting which took place between ARAG officers and the Planning Director of David Wilson Homes and the minutes were fully agreed for publication by the Planning Director.

We are informed that the Alsager Town Clerk failed to identify the persons at Cheshire East who had entered into discussions with David Wilson Homes and that the Leisure Services Department no longer exists. We are not aware if the Town Clerk has spoken to Alsager Sports and Recreation Association (ASRA) who were also included in the information provided by David Wilson Homes.

It would appear that unless the Town Council Planning Committee Chairman had personally listened to the official representative of David Wilson Homes that he considers information from any other source to be ‘hearsay’.

This guarantees that proper democratic discussion and debate cannot take place within the Town Council and is a ridiculous position to adopt but is, perhaps, not uncharacteristic 

Finally, in his Post Councillor Longhurst says “It is also important not to see this as just an issue affecting only Dunnocksfold Road, as this is a matter of principle that could have significance for other ‘open spaces’ whether on Cardway or Fanny’s Croft if Local Plan designations of ‘protected open space’ are simply swept aside at the request of Developers”.  

ARAG totally agrees with this reasoned and sensible argument.

Sandbach Road North Appeal Result.

The Sandbach Road North planning proposal has been through a long and tortuous process, which involved:
  • a rejection of the original planning proposal by Cheshire East, 
  • a rejection of the Developer’s appeal by the planning Inspector, Philip Major, 
  • a judicial review which overturned that decision and ordered a re-run of the appeal 
  • and finally, Stephen Roscoe, the new inspector who ran the second appeal,  has DISMISSED the Sandbach Road North appeal and upheld the reasons given for it first refusal.  
This is excellent news for Alsager and is some reward for all the hard work carried out by ARAG, which went into preparation, attending appeals and presenting the case against.
Mr Roscoe’s Conclusion is summarised by:
75. I therefore conclude that the proposal cannot be seen to be sustainable
development and that the adverse impacts of allowing the appeal would
significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against
the policies of the NPPF as a whole. I further conclude that the presumption in
favour of sustainable development therefore cannot apply.
76. I have taken into account all other matters raised, but none carry sufficient
weight to alter my conclusion. I therefore conclude that the appeal should be
dismissed.
Stephen Roscoe
INSPECTOR

Derek Longhurst

As members are aware, ARAG stopped normal activity on the ARAG website in December 2014.

Information is still available on the site, which may occasionally be updated.

ARAG has been informed that Derek Longhurst, the Independent Town Councillor, intends to stand  as a Cheshire East Councillor in May 2015.

Councillor Longhurst has established his own website both to support his own activities and to provide regular up to date information to the Community, which you can view here.

ARAG is not a party political organisation but the ARAG executive unanimously gives its support to Cllr Longhurst’s campaign, having observed many examples and demonstrations of his commitment to the Community. Cllr Longhurst has also been central to the development of an inclusive culture in which the opinions of all residents are treated with respect and consideration. He has worked tirelessly through the process of planning appeals, making a very substantial input into the process. We believe that he is held in very high regard because of his ability to analyse and articulate a strong position for Alsager residents. He is a very committed individual who we would have no hesitation in recommending for office.

It is quite obvious that we need people of ability to deal with the challenges which Alsager faces now and in the near future. It is time for change. We need new ideas and vision not more of the same.

The ARAG membership list will not be disclosed to any another organisation, but if you are interested in receiving this information on a regular basis, you can register with Councillor Longhurst’s website here.

Closing Post

Closing Post

Following the “last post”, which announced the closing down of current ARAG operations, we have received a large number of very positive E-mails and we would like to thank members for their support and best wishes.

Work has now stopped on the ARAG website but following a number of requests from members, some information will remain.

As a “final final” post, you can read two typical responses here .  One is from a member,  David Beasley and the the other is from the Independent Councillor Derek Longhurst who has worked closely with us over the last 2 years.

All the best for the New Year.

 

ARAG Meeting with Fiona Bruce

ARAG Meeting with Fiona Bruce.

Background.

Since August, following several posts on the subject and at the request of a number of our members ARAG tried to arrange a meeting with Fiona Bruce (MP) and Michael Jones (Leader of Cheshire East) to determine why the ARAG proposal to bring employment and a UTC to the Alsager MMU site was blocked. Michael Jones avoided any meetings, despite requests from ARAG and attempts to arrange schedules by Fiona Bruce. ARAG met with Fiona Bruce in Congleton on Friday 5/12/2014 but Michael Jones did not attend.

ARAG told FB that minutes of the meeting would be posted but from the point of view of balance we would print anything that she wished to say without any alterations on our web site. 12 days have now elapsed so we are posting minutes agreed by the four members who attended.  An hour after this post was placed on the website, an e-mail was received from Fiona Bruce, which has been included exactly in the form it was received, at the end of this “post”.

Our notes from the meeting are provided below.

Meeting With Fiona Bruce in Congleton 5/12/2014

ARAG officers attended with Derek Fulluck, an Alsager resident who worked hard to involve and recruit businesses into the UTC project. BA Systems, Michelin and 10 local small and medium sized enterprises focussed primarily on engineering, agreed to support the project and Siemens agreed to help with advice and IT capital equipment.

ARAG went through the history of the project:

  • At meetings with Michael Jones, he suggested that ARAG should consider and look into a UTC on the MMU site.
  • Fiona Bruce (FB) had previously tried to bring a UTC to her constituency area but without success or any interest from Cheshire East. She agreed to be “Alsager UTC project Champion”.
  • At a meeting with ARAG Officers and members in February 2013 Michael Jones was asked the direct question whether the Council was involved in any on-going discussions regarding the establishment of a UTC. He replied that it was not. At a meeting with Fiona Bruce in late March 2013 we were informed that she had discovered that a project team had been working on a UTC proposal for Crewe since September 2012
  • ARAG initially had support from Staffs University and in fact, one of the project team members, Derek Longhurst, as an Emeritus Professor of the University, was asked by the ( then) University Executive to represent the institution’s interests in South Cheshire. He had also dealt with the establishment of similar organisations on a national basis in his previous career.
  • It was suggested to ARAG by Councillor David Brown, the Deputy Leader of CEC, that ARAG should seek to consult the Town Council regarding the UTC project. Accordingly ARAG representatives gave an informal presentation to Town Council members and Councillor Brown in early April. We also arranged for an ASRA representative to be involved.in order to stress the importance of preserving the site’s sports facilities.
  • In mid-April Derek Longhurst was elected to the Town Council as an Independent.
  • On 1st May 2013 at a meeting of the Cheshire East Council attended by Councillor Brown, Councillor Derek Hough took it up himself to be gratuitously dismissive about the project, suggesting to Cheshire East Council therefore that the proposal did not enjoy local support
  • But the Town Council had not discussed the proposal at this point and did not do so until 14th May 2013. At that meeting it became clear to Councillor Longhurst that, subsequent to the informal presentation in April and prior to his attending a first meeting of the Town Council, some of its members had coordinated a pre-prepared statement effectively to preclude public debate of the proposal. A motion was passed that indicated the decision about the UTC proposal should be made ‘by the education community’. This has subsequently been used by Cheshire East elected representatives as indicating a lack of ‘local’ support and, therefore, as an excuse for their decision not to support the initiative.
  • In order to combat this lack of even-handedness by our elected representatives, ARAG contacted every house in Alsager and received support from 3,000 people for the proposal to develop a UTC, Housing for the elderly, sports fields and housing.
  • FB arranged a Westminster meeting with Lord Baker and ARAG. Lord Baker heads the organisation responsible for taking on new UTCs. At that meeting, ARAG described an IT focussed UTC which would be complementary to the Crewe proposal. Lord Baker thought it was a good proposal and agreed it was complementary to the Crewe proposal. He added that we needed to add a World Class Industrial sponsor to the project team as sponsor.
  • ARAG took Lord Baker’s advice and fulfilled his requirement by finding a World Class IT organisation, very interested to sponsor the project and keen to establish an IT Development Centre on the MMU Site working closely with the UTC and the Community, through retention of the sports and leisure facilities. This would bring 300 jobs in addition to the jobs associated with the UTC. The company offered very strong support and was very committed to the project at a senior level.
  • The key issue in taking this proposal forwards was timing. The company needed to move quickly. The company demonstrated its commitment by attending a meeting in Alsager between two senior directors of the company and ARAG. FB was invited to the meeting but could not attend due to Westminster commitments. The company stated its strong commitment to establishing a Development Centre on the site and sponsoring a UTC focussed on IT.  Retention of the sports facilities, including the best buildings was central to the success of the project. 
  • ARAG informed FB and Michael Jones about the opportunity for 500 jobs in Alsager (Development Centre + UTC ) and asked for an urgent response. In particular it was important to bring all the key parties together to determine the way forwards.
  • At this point, ARAG could not get a response from either Michael Jones or FB and the request for urgent help was not answered.
  • ARAG could not understand why either party (this is still the case) would not discuss bringing such significant levels of employment to Alsager. ARAG and ARAG members tried without success to make contact with letters and e-mails.
  • The company contacted MMU and DTZ and was told that its interest in the site would not be considered.  The involvement of the Local Authority at this stage would have been crucial, as it has been in other similar cases, to the continuation of a dialogue with MMU, which might have altered this position.  That support was not forthcoming.
  • A consultant representing Lord Baker’s department came to discuss the UTC proposal and was very excited and supportive of both the proposed specialism, digital technologies and IT, and the fact that so much of the existing facilities would be retained. He subsequently reported back to us to say that he could not resolve the lack of interest from the Local Authority and confirmed that our bid was being blocked.
  • Over time, it became clear that this project would not succeed and it was therefore halted.

FB stated that she had been very upset at the suggestion that she had not supported the project and blocked the proposal and as the history shows she helped the project, especially by arranging the Lord Baker Meeting. ARAG pointed out that ARAG had not said that FB had blocked the proposal. ARAG had always agreed that she had supported the project until a major success was announced. The issue is that when urgent support was requested, with time of the essence, it was not forthcoming. FB said that she had made it clear that ARAG could always attend one of her surgeries and she had been waiting for ARAG to do that.

FB said that she had supported ARAG and the UTC project strongly in her statement to Cheshire East, which was circulated to ARAG and a number of residents in letters, as evidence of her support for the UTC. These letters were sent several months after the initial call for urgent support and after many letters from residents. ARAG pointed out that in this 5 page document, there were only 5 words on education with no reference to a UTC. We reported feedback to ARAG that residents were angry that she felt that this letter consitituted any kind of support. Cheshire East ignored the request.

ARAG had contacted FB’s offices, written letters and sent e-mails. Promises of a telephone conversation asking for a telephone conversation and a meeting were not fulfilled.

In the meeting we had to agree with FB that we have a different interpretation of “urgent support”.

ARAG made the point that we had been informed from several sources that the project had been blocked politically. FB informed ARAG that Michael Jones had personally blocked the project and that he would ensure planning permission would not be given. This is consistent with other feedback from the Baker Dearing consultant and another leading Cheshire East councillor. FB stated that she had tried to change that position but there was nothing she could do.

FB assumed that the reason for doing this was to ensure that nothing harmed the Crewe UTC proposal. As the Alsager proposal was complementary to Crewe, it was difficult to understand why the prospect of 500 jobs and a UTC could not even be discussed.

Another point made by FB was that the project was not supported by the Town Council or the Head of the School, who she had consulted that morning. ARAG made the point that the objections raised by various parties were exactly the kind of things to be resolved during project initiation discussions, not after the event. The fact that people did not voice and discuss their reservations constructively, is very disappointing. ARAG finds it unlikely that the Head Teacher of Alsager School would wish to be placed in the position of effectively holding a veto over a project that could have generated 500 jobs in Alsager?

At no point in the 90 minute meeting did FB discuss jobs in Alsager.

ARAG asked why she, as our MP, could not try to use her influence with people like the Employment Secretary. FB said that she had no power to do this because everything now related to “localism” . We conveyed to her very strongly that our proposal was a great example of localism devised by local members of the community and supported by 3,000 residents. Her response was what was meant by localism is giving powers to Michael Jones.

ARAG then made the point that this whole saga is just another example of the way Alsager has been treated:

  • An objective assessment of housing need in Alsager would be in the region of 750 houses on Brownfield sites for the next 20 years.
  • Cheshire East imposed a quota of 1,000 on the Town Strategy exercise.
  • With a flawed consultation process and no justification, Cheshire East chose to ignore the Town Council and Residents, increasing that number to 1,600 in its Local Plan.
  • Cheshire East has also decided that objections can be ignored and has for example approved housing development on the White Moss. This is a good example of “it happens because it’s Alsager “. At a recent regional Strategic Planning Board meeting, a Sandbach proposal was rejected because residents had a right to a quality of life which could not be met by living so close to the motorway, with the noise and levels of pollution. The White Moss decision ignored this argument, even though the noise and pollution is probably much worse, because the Borough’s need for housing numbers outweighs everything, including health in Alsager.
  • With the lost appeals, Cheshire East’s insistence on the housing numbers in the South of the Borough and Cheshire East’s decisions, backed up with the failure to produce a Local Plan and demonstrate a 5 year supply, we can now expect significantly more than 2,500 houses in Alsager over the next 17 years.

FB said that she was as angry as ARAG about the situation on housing in our area and she had spoken out and written letters about that. It is the most frequently reported issue in her mailbag. She said that this has been brought about because of the lack of a Local Plan and there was nothing that Central Government could do about it.

ARAG made the following points:

  • The draft NPPF was produced for the government by an advisory group consisting of developers and planning consultants, so it is hardly surprising that there is a presumption in favour of development. This presumption is at the core of what has gone wrong in planning.
  • The government knew in advance that the NPPF would cause the uncontrolled development it has, it’s on the record.
  • Supportive words from politicians don’t help. Our town will expand by 60%, without any significant infrastructure improvement. We don’t need sympathy, we need effective and responsible action. We consider that this considerable impact on Alsager has been deliberate. If government wanted to stop this, it could. It did after all create the legislation which is driving this appalling situation.

E-mail from Fiona Bruce.

I welcomed meeting ARAG again recently, and the opportunity to confirm to you that at no time have I withdrawn my support for a UTC at Alsager – however, it became clear to me over time, as I believe it now has to ARAG – that Cheshire East Council were determined to see a UTC at Crewe and were therefore offering no support for an Alsager UTC, without which the project was simply not going to proceed. ARAG may be curtailing its activities but I am not giving up the fight for our local communities , despite feeling desperately disappointed in both the national regulations and with the failure of Cheshire East Council to finalise a Local Plan . The main hope for Alsager now lies in a swift Neighbourhood Plan and I have written this week to Alsager Town Council accordingly , copy letter attached , as well as speaking to the Housing Minister to ask him to speed through the process Do not underestimate the frustration I feel at this whole situation

Fiona Bruce MP

 

 

 

 


			

The Last Post

The Last Post

A small group of people in ARAG has been working very hard over the last 2 years.

We have done our best to keep the Community informed about planning issues,

  • We have consistently promoted the views of our members,
  • We have worked hard to develop opportunities and to bring education and employment to Alsager,
  • We have attended and made representations at 53 days of appeals and relevant Strategic Planning Board Meetings (SPB),
  • We have fought planning applications and Cheshire East decisions which will damage our Community.

All activities have been funded from within that small group with the exception of a couple of specific projects like the Traffic Survey for example.

ARAG is sad to announce that it will stop its current activities and close down the website by Christmas. There will be some posts before then but apart from some tidying upthat’s all folks”.

Much of what has happened in our area, over the last 2 years, has been driven by politics. Common sense, principled positions and reasoned arguments have been ignored. As a consequence, the planning system in Cheshire East has completely failed and Developers now determine which housing will go where. In Alsager we will get at least 2,500 houses in the next 17 years, which represents a growth of at least 45%, with no infrastructure improvement.

ARAG is not a political organisation and will not become one.

We have been informed, by our MP (Fiona Bruce), that ARAG has been blocked politically from delivering employment and a UTC to Alsager by the leader of Cheshire East. Representations at all levels have been routinely ignored, as have ARAG’s offers of help and co-operation to the Town Council.

A number of our 1,500 members have been very supportive but it is apparent that ARAG has almost always been alone in attending 53 of the 57 days of appeal and most of the relevant Strategic Planning Board Meetings. The exception to this is Councillor Derek Longhurst who has attended and given evidence at more appeals and SPB meetings than the whole of the Town Council put together. These appeals and SPB sessions cover sites all over Alsager. Having put in these hours, ARAG is now very well informed but the experience has also illustrated the futility of these sessions. It has become clear that without an adopted Local Plan and consistent decisions from Cheshire East (SPB) we can’t win. The system, through the government’s biassed NPPF legislation, is stacked massively in favour of Developers and the situation is made impossible by Cheshire East’s failure to deliver a Local Plan and demonstrate a 5 year housing supply. This was clearly illustrated at the recent Sandbach Road North appeal. Cheshire East, because of its inability to demonstrate a 5 year supply and its regular inconsistent decision making, has no defence.

This latest 9 day appeal has been a “game changer”. The barrister representing the Developer, Mr. Barrett, used the recent findings of the Local Plan examination to address the impact of new housing upon Alsager as a key service centre. As a consequence, he addressed the need to change our settlement zone boundary to facilitate yet more housing. As usual, ARAG representatives throughout the course of the appeal, spent their time alone with the exception of councillor Derek Longhurst. None of those aspiring to become our new Cheshire East Councillors have spent time at any of the appeals in order to listen to two leading Barristers giving their learned views upon these subjects. The least we, as residents, should expect is that important decisions, which will affect the future of Alsager, should be made on an informed basis. The totally contradictory messages emanating from Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board were, yet again, used to undermine Alsager’s position.

The outcome of this appeal ( this appeal is a rerun, the previous decision having been overruled at judicial review ) will not be known until mid-February. The decision depends on the weight given by the Inspector to the previous Inspector’s decision and the evidence presented by Alderman Derek Bould and Councillor Derek Longhurst on Landscape and housing numbers. These two pieces of evidence and analysis evidence provided by ARAG featured significantly throughout the appeal.

Why are our CE councillors still in office and shouldn’t they, along with Michael Jones, do the decent thing and own up to the fact that they have totally failed us and continue to do so?

A few individuals have said that we were not elected, and we don’t represent the Community. This 2 year exercise was brought about because of serious concerns around our elected representatives and their obvious inability to protect our Community from Developers. These same people are now proposing alternatives and claiming that this time it will work. We can report that many of our members are very concerned about the likely outcome.

Having already spent over £3.5m + appeal costs on the failed Local Plan and several other millions on appeals, Michael Jones, supported by our Cheshire East Councillors is now promoting Neighbourhood Plans, trying to sell the concept that where Cheshire East has failed, instead, Neighbourhoods will be able to defend themselves from Developers. This will of course take a long time ( 2 years?), be very expensive ( £60k+? 14 already underway in Cheshire East ) and in the meantime, there will be no protection from Developers either through a 5 year supply or a Local Plan. As Neighbourhood Plans come on line, Developers will simply switch the spotlight from Local Plans and deploy their huge resources onto Neighbourhood Plans. Neighbourhood Plans have not as yet been tested through appeals or judicial review. They certainly will be.

Michael Jones, has recently said that “Neighbourhood Plans will allow Communities to decide how much, what type and where new development will take place”. In the light of our experience, we wondered if this is a joke. Developers and their Barristers will determine these things and 14 Neighbourhood plans do not make a Local Plan. Cheshire East, we assume will continue to dump more housing allocation onto Alsager.

For many of the 26 years of its existence, ARAG had excellent working relationships with Congleton Borough council and Cheshire County Council. Under the current climate it has been totally demoralising and fruitless.

For these reasons, ARAG will cease its current activities and close down our website by Christmas. There will be some posts before then but, apart from your ARAG team wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, “that’s all folks”.

 

Thanks

We would like to thank everyone for their contributions, their enthusiasm and support.

ARAG was formed 26 years ago by Rafe Wakelin and the original members including Derek Bould, Miles Palmer, Derek Gammage and Brian Hollinshead. Two of these founder members, Brian Hollinshead and Derek Gammage, made major contributions but are sadly no longer with us.

Derek Fulluck, a Local businessman, worked very hard and very effectively to deliver business support for ARAG’s UTC proposal.

Ian White and Margaret Wakelin have made significant background contributions. Miles Palmer, Chris and Robin Peake and Jonathan Weatherby have all made contributions to running ARAG.

The Independent Town Councillor Prof Derek Longhurst made significant contributions and in particular, helped with research and connections with the world of education.

Our members have made regular contact and their encouragement and support has been very valuable.

Thanks to you all.

Derek Bould, Rafe Wakelin, Chas Howard

 

FALSE SUPERMARKET RUMOUR

RUMOURS THAT SAINSBURY’S HAVE PULLED OUT ARE TOTALLY WRONG

False rumours have been circulating that Sainsbury’s have withdrawn from their Supermarket plan for the Twyfords site, on the edge of Alsager.

ARAG has been in touch directly with Local Dialogue, which is the organisation dealing with the application on behalf of Sainsbury, and were told categorically that the application is proceeding as planned. Currently they are negotiating the Section 106 legal agreements which have to be completed before the planning permission is complete and construction can start.

Note: Section 106 agreements are legal documents, which commit the developer to carry out specific work or make financial contributions to items like associated highway improvements.

Alsager Chronicle Articles Nov. 27th 2014

Neighbourhood plan could be back on cards.” – Alsager “relatively unscathed” by Local Plan failure  -  Alsager Chronicle Nov. 27th 2014

Town Councillors are to reconsider the possibility of establishing a Neighbourhood Plan as a last line of defence against speculative housing development. You can read about Neighbourhood Plans here and here ( last section – “the rush to a neighbourhood plan”)

In the recent Alsager Chronicle articles referred to above, both Cllr S.Jones and Cllr Hough have promoted the need for us, as a town, to proceed with the development of a Neighbourhood Plan as an interim solution to not having a Local Plan or 5 year housing supply. Cllr S.Jones said “the Town Council has a duty to protect residents from unwanted development” and Cllr Hough has made the claim that a Neighbourhood Plan could be produced in 6 weeks. This conflicts with information received from Fiona Bruce’s office stating that Neighbourhood Plans typically take 2 years from start to acceptance. To tell residents that a Neighbourhood Plan is a legal document which gives protection against developers is utter nonsense.

All of this appears to have come about because Michael Jones, the Leader of Cheshire East Council, is reportedly telling everyone that Neighbourhood Plans are the answer to all our planning problems. In our opinion this is all simply a distraction aimed at taking our minds off Cheshire East Council’s failure to produce a viable Local Plan and demonstrate a five year supply of housing. Cheshire East should understand why they have failed so spectacularly and should remedy that situation as a matter of urgency. A robust operational and inspected Local Plan offers the only real protection.

At appeals, Planning Inspectors have wholly agreed with the evidence provided by ARAG but have repeatedly stated that “this lack of a five year supply trumps everything”. A Neighbourhood Plan would not have any effect on this situation and the two years it is likely to take to produce such a plan and take it to referendum would give ample opportunity for developers to continue with their exploitation of these weaknesses and further their ambitions. Furthermore, any plan must be able to withstand the inevitable vigorous challenges from Developers. In other words, in order to offer any hope of protection, a Neighbourhood Plan must be more credible and carry more weight than the currently submitted Cheshire East Local Plan. It is doubtful that a fast-track Neighbourhood Plan, even one that takes more than 6 weeks to produce, would be sufficiently robust to withstand such a sustained challenge.

Cheshire East Council is now saying it will be preparing an “accelerated programme” to help Town Councils . This is particularly interesting because funding from Government has stopped and in a letter received from the Communities and Local Government Minister’s department, the point is made that they will not now engage in any new expressions of interest regarding Neighbourhood Plan projects until at least May 2015.

The Alsager Town Council opposed the production of a plan which would have included a traffic survey and demonstrated negotiations with neighbouring authorities such as Newcastle u Lyme and Stoke. Residents will remember that ARAG put two proposals to the Town Council in July 2013 for such activities to take place.

At a Town Council meeting, Fiona Bruce M.P. made the point that “this is the evidence I need when talking to ministers about Alsager and the problems we face”. The Town Council voted, with one exception, that this would not be an appropriate use of funds. Faced with this response our residents funded a traffic survey.

Sadly Alsager Town Councillors, with one or two exceptions, have in the past two years demonstrated their level of interest in planning matters in Alsager and the immediate neighbourhood by their non-attendance at planning appeals and public enquiries.

As a result of the research we have undertaken and advice we have sought from independent planning consultants over the past two years we feel that it would make no sense to say that Neighbourhood Plans have no value. We do however need to recognise the impact the scale of currently approved developments ( at least 2,000 houses in the first 3 years of a 20 year plan) will have upon services in our town and the sustainability of such growth. There is already considerable development just outside our Town boundary for which Alsager is the key Service Centre. A Neighbourhood Plan which only considers development within Alsager’s Town boundary would have no influence on such developments. Surely this should mean working closely with the four or five parishes which surround the town. How long would it take to develop such complex partnerships? A good example of this is the newly received planning application for Silver Birches, Close Lane (74 houses, 14/5114C), which is clearly Alsager but it is within the Haslington parish.

Cheshire East Council would also have to approve Neighbourhood Plans which in turn have to be consistent with the Local Plan. In the absence of such a plan how can this possibly work? How will Cheshire East overcome the absence of a 5 year housing supply?

Neighbourhood Plans that have been agreed formally sit well within the context of their Local Plans and some provide detail agreed by the community which supports the Local Plan framework and principles. However if time is taken to read these plans, it will be seen that they contain a number of common themes which do not apply to Alsager and its particular situation.

Given the already reported rise in the Town Council Budget/Precept, how is this going to be funded?

  • What is the estimated cost?
  • Where is the budget line?
  • How will the professional services be funded and by whom?

Rushing into making more costly decisions and setting in motion a process that, according to evidence provided by Fiona Bruce’s office, could take up to two years to complete; in our opinion needs very careful consideration. Particularly as those who would wish to take ownership of such a process may well have their minds focused on May 2015 and the outcome of an election. It is the responsibility of those currently in power that there has been a failure to achieve a viable and compliant Local Plan and a demonstrable 5 year housing supply. A Local Plan would have provided the protection we need and deserve.

We find it disturbing that one local councillor, commenting on the Local Plan failure – Alsager Chronicle Nov. 27th, said “There is still hope for Alsager and I think the town will come through relatively unscathed this time” which suggests a worrying level of complacency and a refusal to accept the past failures that have led to the devastating level of speculative development that has already been passed.

We consider the Neighbourhood Plan proposal to be a deliberate distraction from the most important activity, which is to establish a robust Local Plan and a demonstrable 5 year supply of housing. If our current Cheshire East Councillors succeed in overturning the Town Council’s decision not to engage with a Neighbourhood Plan, as we anticipate they will, it needs to be sufficiently robust to withstand legal challenges at appeals and it needs to cover Alsager’s catchment area as a Key Service Centre and by definition deal with all developments on and around our Town Boundary.

TOWN COUNCIL TAX UP 9.8%

ALSAGER TOWN COUNCIL TAX – UP BY 9.8%

Alsager Town Council’s Budget for 2015/16 has been published on their website and is scheduled for adoption at the next Full Council meeting on Tuesday 9th December, 7.15 pm at the Alsager Institute on Green Drive (off Sandbach Road North).

You can access the budget documents here 

Their budget shows an increase of £30,000 in the precept, which is collected from Alsager Council Tax payers, which means a 9.8% increase to what residents pay (based upon a Band D property). The precept is the total sum of money the Town Council collect, from our community, to pay for local grants, services and their running costs.

 

This very significant ongoing increase of £30,000 appears to be entirely related to the worsening budget deficit caused by losses associated with running the Civic centre; other overspends have been paid for out of the Council’s reserves.

This means the cost of taking over responsibilities (devolved from Cheshire East in 2012) has grown to £100,000 which represents over a third (almost 35%) of the Town Council’s proposed new precept of £290,000. As residents will recall, and everyone predicted at the time, Cheshire East’s costs went down but we saw no corresponding reduction in the level of Cheshire East Council Tax

When the Town Council took over responsibility for the Civic, Public Toilets, Market and Allotments they published a Press Release (Alsager in Focus, March 2012) where the Chairman explained that the cost of doing so was adding £70,000 to their budgeted precept. In the same article the Chairman of the Finance & General Purposes Committee clearly said that the Civic would be run on a ‘Cost Neutral’ basis, which means that in reality running the Civic should not cost local residents anything.

Actually the Market and Allotments cost us nothing, for day-to-day running, and this year’s cost of the Public Toilet is £16,000 so the balance of the ‘additional responsibility’ precept increase, in excess of £80,000, appears to be for the Civic.

More recently some members of the Council are now expressing the view that the Civic is a community resource and should be subsidised by the community. But, this is not how the ‘deal’ was sold to the community, by the Town Council, and they should acknowledge this and accept accountability for their decision making.

What our individual Town Councillors tell us, in the run up to their elections next May, will make interesting reading.

Local Plan Developments

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.

 

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.

Cardway Planning Application 13/4081C

Cardway Planning Application 13/4081C

The Cardway planning Application 13/4081C ( see here ) for 110 houses was refused by the Southern Planning Committee ( 22/10/2014 ) by 4 votes to 3 with 3 abstentions. The Alsager Town Strategy identified the Cardway Brownfield site for 50 houses and employment land.  This application was for 110 houses and it also included greenfield open space land owned by Cheshire East.
Cllr Hough spoke, covering the loss of open space in addition to other points and Sue Helliwell, a resident,  also made a presentation.  Hon. Alderman Derek Bould presented on behalf of ARAG and the Town Council ( this approach had been unanimously approved by the TC the previous evening ) and you can read his presentation here.
 
Alderman Bould also pointed out that the Town Strategy states 50 houses for this site and the Cheshire East SHLAA states 60 and that there could clearly be room for compromise but the application for 110 was contrary to this evidence. This was taken up strongly by Cllr Janet Clowes.  It was the subject of much debate and appeared to influence the final decision to refuse the application on the grounds of Loss of Open Space.
At the same meeting, a planning application was considered in the Sandbach area on a site adjacent to the M6 motorway, for 13 houses.  Planning was refused, following the officer recommendation, on the grounds of  unacceptable noise and air quality levels.  The chairman of the committee stated that the expectation which residents should have regarding their quality of life could not be realised by building on this site.  Alderman Bould and Rafe Wakelin (ARAG) who attended for this item were amazed at this recommendation ( although in full agreement ) given the controversial and conflicting decision of the Strategic Planning Board to ignore the same ( possibly even worse ) situation in Alsager and permit housing development on the White Moss.

ARAG Website Updates

Website Updates

In recent weeks, the website has been updated to reflect the current position.

The Background page has been updated to give an overview and how the current situation developed.  You can see that here.

The numbers have been updated in Housing proposals which can be seen here.  A pictorial version can be seen here.

In Current Matters, there are now up to date sections on:

The MMU Site, here.

White Moss Quarry. here.

Local Plan, here.

Neighbourhood Plans, here.

These pages are routinely updated to reflect current information and circumstances, any significant updating will be the subject of a post to members.

 

 

 

Local Plan Examination Suspended

Local Plan Hearings Suspended.

Hearing sessions into the Cheshire East draft local plan,  which were due to take place during the weeks of 7th, 21st and 28th October, have been deferred by the Inspector, Stephen Pratt.

Completion of the inquiry is likely to be delayed until the end of the year.

The deferred sessions would have discussed matters which relate to sites and strategic locations.

The adjournment follows a legal submission to the inquiry last week, submitted by developers Jones Homes, Redrow Homes, Royal London Asset Management and landowner the Tatton Estate.

The document expressed “serious and substantial” concerns over the process of plan preparation and called for the examination to be suspended.

These concerns relate to the duty to co-operate on green belt, housing and highway infrastructure issues; the omission of an alternative in the Strategic Environmental Assessment, which would deliver over 1600 houses per annum, and employment growth rates.

According to the council, the planning inspector called the adjournment so that a large volume of submissions from developers could be considered.

A spokesperson for Cheshire east Council said: “Cheshire East is happy to support an adjournment in the examination hearings to allow the inspector to review the extensive number and volume of hearing statements concerning Matter 14 (strategic sites and strategic locations), which have been submitted.”

 The Inspector raised concerns over the adequacy and methodology of the housing needs assessment contained in the draft local plan in July of this year.

You can read more about the Local Plan adjournment here and here.

MMU – Alsager Chronicle Letter

MMU – Alsager Chronicle Letter.

The Independent Town Councillor, Derek Longhurst, recently responded to an article and a letter from Councillor Derek Hough in the Alsager Chronicle which asked “why was the town council not consulted over new technical college?” 

You can read that article here.

 

 

Current Planning proposals – 2/10/2014

Current Planning Proposals in Alsager

There are 3 current planning proposals for Greenfield sites, all of which are speculative and outside the Town Strategy and the submitted Local Plan.  On all of these applications, the Town Plan and the submitted Local Plan are being ignored by  Developers, they are intrusions into open countryside, they add to an acknowledged unsustainable situation in Alsager both for highways and employment and they go against the policy of restraint in our area, to support regeneration in the Potteries.  Our housing quota in Alsager has already doubled from the 1,000 established by the Town Plan ( see home page on this web site ).

If the web site stops you from submitting an objection, either e-mail Cheshire East or write, quoting name address, planning reference number and your objection.

Please submit your objections.

1. Application number 14/4241C for 8 dwellings north of Close Lane .

This is a repeat application which was previously rejected by Cheshire East.  It is a totally inappropriate location, on a highly dangerous corner, where Dunnocksfold Road turns into Close Lane.  Close Lane itself is a narrow, dangerous country road with planning permission already granted for Rhodes Field (110)and The Muller application(132).  Nearby, permission has also been granted for White Moss (350) and Dunnocksfold Road(95).

You can view the application here.

Last Date for comments = 30/10/2014

 2. Application number 14/4010C for 60 dwellings.  

This is an extension to the Sandbach Road North Site ( see below ).  It used to be a tip site, it would be an erosion of the boundary between Alsager and open countryside, it is an intrusion on current housing, changing the nature of the surrounding countryside and degrading popular local leisure amenities, it will be very visible from Borrowpit Meadows and the Salt Line.

 You can view the application here

Last date for comments = 9/10 but please get your objections in anyhow.

 3. Application number 14/3919C for 130 houses Sandbach Rd North

This is a repeat application for this controversial site.   Cheshire East rejected the original application and the Developer appealed.  The Inspector rejected the appeal but that decision was overruled when the Developer took it to judicial review.  This decision means that the appeal will have to be be re-run but the Developer has submitted a new application anyhow.  This “confusion / getting the best out of both worlds” tactic has been used several times now by different developers.  It illustrates very well how Developers will ignore: the Town Council, Cheshire East, Inspectors,  Residents, the Town Strategy and the submitted Local Plan and try to  impose their own way.  This site would intrude into open countryside and substantially change the nature of the surrounding countryside.  It is in a dangerous and inappropriate position, opposite the Wilbrahams pub,  the entrance to Leicester Avenue and close to a very dangerous pinch point on the main route from Alsager to Sandbach.

You can view the application here

Last date for comments = 25/9  but please get your objections in anyhow. 

Cheshire East Local Plan Examination

Examination of the Cheshire East Local Plan started yesterday ( 16/9/2014 ) in Macclesfield.

ARAG attended to understand the process and Alsager will be considered in October.

You can view ARAG’s statement to the examination process in “Current Matters”  here.

Recent Articles ( MMU, White Moss )

From time to time; ARAG posts references to newspaper letters, from Alsager residents, where they are issues with which ARAG is involved. Two letters, which have appeared in the Alsager Chronicle during the last couple of weeks, are available here for member’s information.

A recently published letter on the MMU site  can be seen here . 

A recently published letter on the White Moss can be seen here.

 

 

 

Meeting with Michael Jones and Fiona Bruce

Meeting with Michael Jones( Cheshire East Leader )  and Fiona Bruce

ARAG’s proposal to develop an IT focussed University Technical College(UTC) on the MMU site was supported by Fiona Bruce (MP)  but blocked by Michael Jones of Cheshire East.  When ARAG obtained an industrial sponsor, an International IT organisation, willing to sponsor the UTC and establish an IT  Development Centre which would bring 300+ additional jobs to Alsager,  the urgent request  for support to take advantage of this opportunity was ignored by Michael Jones and Fiona Bruce.  You can read about the MMU proposal here.

ARAG requested a meeting involving ARAG Officers, Michael Jones and Fiona Bruce.  The purpose of the meeting was to understand why this had happened.  Michael Jones replied disingenuously, asking why ARAG hadn’t made a bid for the site.  He knows that our sponsor tried to open discussion with MMU and its agent DTZ about purchasing the site but the approach was rejected.  ARAG further replied to Michael Jones asking for suitable dates for the meeting.  Fiona Bruce stated that she would be happy to meet with ARAG and was attempting to coordinate diaries with Michael Jones’ office.

Three weeks after the letter to Michael Jones, no further response has been received, so we can only assume that a meeting will now not take place.  ARAG is therefore unable to explain to its members why the UTC proposal, backed by over 3,000 residents, was blocked and why the opportunity to bring 500 jobs to the Town ( 300 Dev Centre + 200 UTC ) was allowed to slip through our fingers.

Sandbach Road North

Sandbach Road North

A new application has been received for the Sandbach Road North site.

It has an Application Number of  14/3919C and it can be viewed here.

  This site has some history.  It was first proposed as Planning application 12/4872C on 21-Dec-2012 you can view the original proposal and the objections raised here.  

 The original application was rejected by Cheshire East but the developer appealed.  The Inspector rejected the appeal but the Developer then went to judicial review.  The judicial review overturned the appeal decision which means that the appeal will now have to be re-run.

This new application attempts to overcome some of the objections raised by Residents, Cheshire East and the Inspector and presumably intends to cause some confusion at the forthcoming appeal.  It is however not included in the Local Plan or the Town Strategy, it is in a ridiculously dangerous place ( opposite the Wilbraham Pub  and just before the very narrow road and pinch point leading out of Alsager ), it is a very obvious intrusion into open countryside and it damages the nature of the surrounding countryside in a very picturesque part of Alsager which is close to the Salt Line.  Alsager already has received significantly more planning consents than the Local Plan target and Alsager is an area of housing restraint, a policy which is supported by neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle Under Lyme Authorities.

Please support the residents of this area and object to the proposal here before 25/9/2014.

 

Neighbourhood Plans

Neighbourhood Plans.

In recent months, the subject of Neighbourhood Plans has been promoted by Central Government and Cheshire East as the best way for communities to engage with the Planning System.  It has even been suggested  at a recent Town Council meeting that a Neighbourhood Plan can offer Communities protection from unwanted housing development.

This website now contains a page on Neighbourhood plans, the background to them and ARAG’s position, which you can view here.

 In Summary, ARAG considers that a Neighbourhood Plan will now not benefit Alsager.  It must be consistent with the adopted Local Plan and as it can only influence where development identified in the Local Plan should take place and its nature, there is no benefit.  In fact the Town Strategy process and Alsager’s current predicament demonstrates that identifying alternative sites simply invites developers to target both the original and the alternative sites.

When the Alsager Town Council first engaged with the Town Planning process in 2011, ARAG held the view that a Neighbourhood Plan would have been a much more appropriate and useful way of expending time and money.  It would have determined where development could take place in Alsager, it would have been consistent with the Local Plan  and it would have carried significant weight in all subsequent planning decisions.  This assumed however that a Local Plan would have been produced and adopted by Cheshire East  in a reasonable timeframe, perhaps 2 years, to meet Central Government deadlines, rather than the reality which will be 4-5 years.  It is very difficult to understand how an Authority can go from a position where an approved Local plan was in place, The Congleton Borough Local Plan, to one where a Local Plan and 5 year supply of housing doesn’t exist and will take 4-5 years.

The impact of Cheshire East’s failure to deliver a Local Plan or to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing and the fact that the Alsager Town Strategy carries no weight in the planning process has been that every single planning application, no matter how inappropriate, has been passed either by Cheshire East or at appeal.

Cheshire East, without any justification, imposed a housing target of 1,000 on Alsager. This number has now grown to 1,985 and it could easily grow beyond 2,500 before a Local Plan is in place.  This represents a growth of more than 50% and these permissions have been granted in the first 2 years of the 20 year plan.  You can view an analysis of Alsager’s housing planning permissions here.

 In ARAG’s view, we have missed the opportunity to benefit from a Neighbourhood Plan.  The only protection we will get is from the Local Plan, which will not be adopted  and in place for some significant time yet.  The average time from submission to adoption is 2 years and the Cheshire East Local Plan was submitted in May 2014.

 

At the Town Council Meeting of 02/09/2014, and in the local press, despite a previous unanimous Council decision not to start a Neighbourhood Plan, Councillor Hough claimed that:

  • A Neighbourhood Plan could be produced in 6 weeks.

  • A Neighbourhood Plan could conflict with a Local Plan to Alsager’s benefit and there is Case evidence to demonstrate that.

  • A Neighbourhood Plan was important to protect Alsager.

  • A Neighbourhood Plan would not be expensive to produce.

  • Funding would be available from Central Government  to help with the cost of producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

We would make these points:

  •  So far, nationally, only 13 Neighbourhood Plans have been adopted.  The typical elapsed time from start to adoption is 2 years and this is when a Local plan is in place.
  • A Neighbourhood Plan must be approved by the Local Authority and it must be consistent with the Local Plan.  If there is case law on this subject which demonstrates otherwise, where is it?

  • All of the sites identified in the submitted Cheshire East Local Plan are either committed or now have planning permission.  The failure to deliver a Local Plan has also facilitated the granting of planning permission  on a number of inappropriate and unplanned sites.  A Neighbourhood Plan offers no protection, it is too late.  It can only identify additional sites.

  • Independent planning advice suggests that the minimum cost to develop a Neighbourhood Plan of adequate quality, would be in excess of  £50k.

  • Central Government funding for Neighbourhood Plans was suspended in mid-August, until April 2015 at the earliest.

The National Planning Policy Framework ( NPPF ) was introduced by the current government in March 2012.  It was drafted by a committee dominated by Developers and Planning Consultants and it deliberately gives priority to housing development over the wishes of Communities.  It is in fact a charter for development which allows normal planning processes and Local Decision making to be ignored.  Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by the Localism Act ( 2011 ).  Although the stated intention is to allow Communities to engage with the Planning process, Neighbourhood Plans must comply with Local Plans and by definition with the NPPF. Following a local referendum, they must be approved by both Local Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate.  The NPPF and related Central Government decision making and influence means that  inappropriate development has and will take place, whether Communities object or not.

Cheshire East’s failure to deliver a Local Plan of course worsens this situation.

 In our view, engaging with the Neighbourhood Planning Process is a distraction from the impact of this poor piece of legislation and the failure to deliver a Local Plan, which is encouraged by Central and Local Government.  

White Moss and MMU

As part of an ongoing process, the web site has recently been updated to reflect the current position.

In particular, there is a section now which explains what has happened on the White Moss.  You can read that section here.  The Cheshire East decision to overrule the Town Council, the MP and the Alsager Community by promoting and allowing housing on the White Moss, will have a major impact on Alsager.

There is also a new section on the MMU site, with some history and the current position, which you can read here.

There is a new analysis of the Greenfield sites which have been subject to planning proposals and which have had planning permission granted.

You can see that analysis here and see a map and breakdown here.

 

 

FRYER’S OPEN FOR BUSINESS

FRYER’S NOT CLOSING & OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Unfortunately, a rumour has been circulating that Fryer’s Newsagents, on Crewe Road, is closing which is definitely not the case and we have been asked to make it clear that Fryer’s is open for business as usual.

Customers will see that a major re-organisation of the interior is taking place as part of refurbishment and significant alterations, which is a planning issue, but the business will continue to operate as usual and Fryer’s apologize for any inconvenience caused.

ARAG does not normally circulate general information but we recognise that Fryer’s is one of the oldest and established businesses in Alsager and provides a valuable and essential service to our community.

WHITE MOSS HOUSES APPROVED

350 HOUSES APPROVED FOR WHITE MOSS SITE

Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board has today approved the building of 350 houses on the White Moss site. Basically the argument put forward was “because it’s in the Submission Version of the Local Plan it can’t be refused.” which seems a ridiculous argument considering that the Planning Inspectorate was scheduled to determine if White Moss should even be in the Local Plan.

There was a three-hour debate with a range of substantive issues raised about the problems of the site. The Officers largely led this debate and argued that the ‘benefits to housing supply’ effectively trumped all other issues. It was clearly being railroaded through prior to the Inspector’s Examination of the Local Plan next month.

An initial ‘Motion to Refuse’ permission was only supported by Councillor Hough – who had presented the arguments very well, Councillor Brendan Murphy (Independent) – who was excellent on the issues – and Councillor Janet Jackson (Labour/Macclesfield). Councillor Paul Edwards (Independent/Middlewich) abstained on all votes.

A ‘Motion to Approve’ was then proposed by Councillor David Brown and seconded by Councillor Steve Wilkinson and put to the vote.

It was not a ‘named vote’ but we believe those in favour of approval were:

  • Councillor Harold Davenport (Chair/Disley/ Con))
  • Councillor George Walton (Deputy Chair/ Chelford/Con)
  • Councillor Rhoda Bailey (Odd Rode/Con)
  • Councillor David Brown (Congleton East/ Deputy Leader/Portfolio Holder-Local Plan/ Con)
  • Councillor John Hammond (Haslington/Con)
  • Councillor Roger West (Poynton West and Adlington/ Con)
  • Councillor Steve Wilkinson (High Leigh/Con)
  • Councillor John Wray (Brereton Rural/ Con)
Which seems to suggest that this was a political group decision that conflicts with statements by the Council’s Leadership ‘that politics plays no part in planning’.

It is particularly sad that Councillors Rhoda Bailey (Odd Rode) and John Hammond (Haslington) voted against the wishes of their neighbouring community of Alsager.

JUNCTION 16 ROAD WORKS

A500 (WEST) ROAD CLOSURE TONIGHT

This is the latest information sent to ARAG by the Junction 16 contractor, BAM Nuttall:

Tonight (19/08/2014) and next month (16/09/2014), there will be a night time full road closure on A500W, to and from Crewe, 8pm till 6am.

There will be narrow lanes on the A500W running to J16 roundabout  and A500 western arm, during the day.

There is still a full closure in place during nights, to the J16 Southbound exit slip road, which will end late November. The Northbound exit slip road will also have night time closures from the 25th of August, until the end of November.

Meeting with MMU Developer 5/8/2014

Meeting with the MMU Developer 5/8/2014

 ARAG Officers met with Andrew Taylor, Planning Director of David Wilson Homes/ Barratt Homes concerning the MMU site on Tuesday August 5th 2014.

 The purpose of the meeting was to obtain information about the Developer’s proposals and to discuss any opportunities for further consultation.

 In summary, the proposed plan is:

  • To develop a detailed plan for submission to Cheshire East by Sept/ Oct 2014.
  • To obtain planning approval early 2015.
  • To demolish all existing buildings including the sports facilities.
  • To retain some of the sports fields and provide replacement sports pitches on the south side of the site.  It is also proposed to provide a new changing room facility in the same area which could include a multipurpose room for community use. These facilities will be for open use by the Community.
  • To build between 350 and 450 2/3/4/5 bedroom houses to a high standard over a 10 year period at the rate of around 50 per year.
  • To provide public open space on the site.
  • To produce a transport assessment and consider making contributions to improve existing infrastructure as required.
  • To have people living on the site by the end of 2015 / early 2016.

 Consultation.

 Mr Taylor informed ARAG:

  •  that consultation has been going on for some time with Sport England (a statutory consultee ), Alsager Sports Association, Alsager Association Football Club, the High School, the cricket Club, Alsager Town Football club and Cheshire East Leisure Services Department.
  •  that the exhibition staged on July 23rd at the school was part of the pre-application consultation and the first consultation with the local residents.
  •  that the Developer distributed 1,000 leaflets to residents and approximately 300 people attended the exhibition. Comments have not yet been analysed but it appears that the main issues reported were related to housing density and infrastructure.
  •  that the Developer is keen to receive comments about the proposals and would be happy to obtain these via ARAG here or sent directly to them here.

 

Mr Taylor was questioned by ARAG officers concerning many comments received by them from residents.

 The Developer accepted that the housing levels proposed for this site are potentially significantly greater than those specified in the submitted Local Plan but considers that the proposed housing density levels are reasonable and justifiable. As a commercial operation, the Developer will endeavour to generate the required profit from the development.

 This brownfield site is included in the Town and Local Plans. Any increase over the Plan housing level of 350 would be justified by the Council’s ongoing overall housing requirement and its inability to demonstrate a 5 year supply.

 On mixed development provision for the elderly, there are no plans to build bungalows or provide facilities for the elderly or disabled. These are not considered to be cost effective or to contribute to best use of brownfield land. If Cheshire East insisted on this as a planning condition it would be considered.

Cheshire East, in its submitted Local Plan, has given protected status to the single Dunnocksfold Road field to the west of the site. This field is now proposed for development and the Developer will be making representations to have the protected status removed. Mr Taylor stated that this is to comply with a request made by the Cheshire East’s own Leisure Services Department. The consulted sports groups have also confirmed their view that this field is not required by them.

Management of the sports pitches and facilities will be undertaken by a newly formed Leisure Trust which will control these resources together with the adjacent Leisure Centre based on the school site. Cheshire East will hold these assets in perpetuity, subject to their continued sports use.

 The Developer will make further contribution to upgrade facilities at the Leisure Centre and consider the resurfacing of the All Weather pitch.

 Affordable Housing. The Developer may make a case to the Local Authority to reduce the percentage of affordable houses* because of the considerable contribution already required to support the sports provision. ( * normally 30% )

The usual Section 106 funding contributions, to Cheshire East, will be forthcoming for education and infrastructure. The Developer may also consider making contributions which would impact upon the local Community.

 The look and feel of the development, will be consistent with Alsager’s image. Public open space will be provided on site, and the developer will seek to retain as many mature trees and hedgerows as possible.High quality build will be undertaken by the Developer

 You will see from the diagram on the first page of the web site here that we can now anticipate 3,000 houses in Alsager in the next 20 years. The Local plan increased the housing allocation on the MMU site from the 300 in the Town Plan, to 350 and now the Developer envisages 350-450 houses on the site.

 The Developer is happy to have a continuing dialogue with ARAG, and is also prepared to give a presentation to the Town Council when the detailed plans are available.

If you wish to comment or make any points to the Developer, you can either mail them to ARAG here and we will consolidate and pass them on, or communicate directly to the Developer  here.

 The Developer stated that all comments will be considered.

These minutes have been agreed with the Developer.

Junction 16 Roadworks

Latest Information from J16 Contractor.

BAM Nuttall and the M6 J16 Pinch Point Project, I would like to inform you of our current Traffic Management plans that will be taking place in the next couple of weeks.

There will be narrow lanes running to J16 roundabout and A500 western arm, during the day, while a full closure to J16 Southbound exit slip road will take place during nights. The night work hours are from 8PM until 6AM the next day.

BARTHOMLEY LINK ROAD OPEN

Signs Indicating Road Closure put out in Error.

Members have contacted us to say that the Barthomley Link Road is open and operating normally. ARAG’s President, Hon Alderman Derek Bould, went down there to investigate just what is going on and had a long conversation with the Junction 16 Contractor’s Project Manager, Mr Kevin Kite. Mr Kite said that his company, Bam Nuttall Ltd, had not put the sign out and they were very concerned that a closure would seriously disrupt their contract work. Kevin had contacted Chevron, the company who owned the sign, and had not been able to get a straight answer from them; other than the road was not going to be closed. Mr Kite apologized for any inconvenience, but to be fair it was not his companies fault.

ARAG has since investigated the diversion around Nursery Road, residents will have seen the Diversion signs, and found that the sign which was displayed on the motorway bridge on the Barthomley Link is now on Nursery Road near the old Beecroft Peat buildings. It seems clear to us that Chevron staff placed the closure notice on the wrong road and managed to cause massive confusion.

However, something good could come out of this fiasco because the Bam Nuttall Project Manager, Mr Kite, has offered to inform ARAG of the ongoing road closures, diversions etc so that we can publish the information on our website.

ROAD CLOSURE UPDATE

Road Closure Date Correction

Thank you for the many e-mail corrections we have received.

The correct date for the road closure is 4th August 2014

Sorry, our usual IT expert is on holiday so you have an amateur filling in at the moment.

ROAD CLOSURE

Barthomley Link Closed for 3 Weeks

The link road from Radway Traffic Lights to the Motorway Roundabout at Junction 16 will be closed for 3 weeks starting on Monday 4th August 2014. The only immediate alternatives are to use Audley Road from the Railway Station to the A500 or the main road from Lawton Traffic Lights to the A500 at Talke.

CLOSE LANE APPEAL DECISION

Inspector Allows 132 Houses in Close Lane

Inspector Karen L Baker’s Appeal Decision was published on 29th July 2014 and she has allowed Muller’s appeal against refusal of planning permission for the site on Close Lane.

Yet again an inspector has stated, very clearly, that Cheshire East Council does not have a 5 year supply of Available House Building Land and because of this the saved Local Plan Policies of Crewe & Nantwich are considered out of date and we have no protection from speculative development.

(Note: the application site is outside the Alsager town boundary and therefore in the old Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council area.)

Residents tell us that all of the assurances given to them, by the Leader of Cheshire East Council, were nothing but empty promises and some of them have suggested that it as been nothing more than a strategy of ‘Grand Failure’. The council make the claim “we have done our very best but these awful developers pay expensive QC’s to scupper our best efforts” while in practice they should have known that their figures simply didn’t stack up. Residents also wonder if the Council Leader is ‘Broken Hearted’ over this result, as he said he was over Dunnocksfold Road, and just how many times this man’s heart will be broken by letting us down?

Many believe that if the job had been done properly in the first place, and the 5 year claims were as robust as the Michael Jones made out, we would not be consistently losing appeals.

The UTC Protest

Thank you very much to all those who came to Alsager School on Wednesday to support our ‘protest’ about the UTC. The Sentinel photographer turned up early, at 6 pm (obviously a communication problem) but we had a decent sized crowd by that time. Sadly, the photo published on Thursday does not reflect the trouble he took and especially not the group of residents who so willingly posed for the shots! We did however get a very good write-up. The Alsager Chronicle team came at 6.30 as arranged and after a few distractions more photos were taken of a mostly different group of people. Their reporter also interviewed lots of residents inside and outside the exhibition and we will see the results next week. Our sincere apologies and of course thanks again for making the effort, to a few locals who came as promised but did not realise that we had ended up, just round the corner, outside the Leisure Centre Entrance because the Main Entrance was closed. We were there from about 4.30 until almost 7 pm with our placards and rumours that we have heard about that we had been and gone before 6.30 are not true.

So we are sorry some of you missed what we think was a successful event – considering the very short notice, people unavoidably having other commitments on Wednesday evening and many away on holiday (which may also explain the timing of the exhibition!)

WHITE MOSS – DECISION DEFERRED

Councillors Defer White Moss Decision

A decision on the White Moss planning application, amended from 1000 to 350 houses, was deferred by members of Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board.

Councillor Rod Fletcher submitted a statement, because he could not be present, but there was no one there from the Town Council. Verbal presentations were made by Alderman Derek Bould (for ARAG) and Sylvia Dyke which helped to point out serious anomalies in the officer’s report and set the scene about how poor it was.

This was taken up, initially by Independent Councillor Brendan Murphy who proposed Refusal of the application; but it was Local Councillor Derek Hough, who in addition to seconding this proposal, proceeded to step-by-step dismantle the report and identify the contradictions, confusion and missing information throughout the document.

At this point the Chairman of the Strategic Planning Board admitted that he had been thoroughly confused by the report and proposed Deferral until the report could be freshly prepared and debated. Following a short debate, Deferral was accepted almost unanimously.

We await the next move, but a ‘Thank You‘ to Derek Hough for a job well done.

Support for the UTC Demo on Wednesday

The David Wilson Homes and Barratt Homes Exhibition at Alsager School on Wednesday evening has given residents an opportunity to show how they feel about the manner in which Alsager’s residents democratically expressed wishes for a University Technical College specialising in IT have been thwarted by our elected representatives – and to publicly demand answers.
 
Alsager has been denied the possibility of at least 500 jobs of all kinds – high tech, academic, teaching and support services. Our children have been denied a fantastic educational facility and their future choices are consequently more limited. A UTC would have renewed Alsager, given it back its status and probably done much to revive the fortunes of the high street traders.
Everyone wants answers - especially from our MP Fiona Bruce and from Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council.
 
Residents including parents and their children who may have lost out are asked to support a show of feelings at Alsager School between 6 pm and 7 pm. on Wednesday 23rd July. The local press and photographer(s) will be present at  about 6.30 pm. Placards will be provided but your own are welcome if suitably worded.
 
Please note, this is not about the development plans for the MMU as proposed. That is a separate issue.

MMU and Dunnocksfold Road

MMU Exhibition

There will be a public exhibition on 23 July from 4-8pm at the old drama studio, Alsager school (access via the Alsager leisure centre).
This is an exhibition of the proposals by David Wilson Homes/Barratt Homes for the redevelopment of the MMU site.
 David Wilson Homes/Barratt Homes want to take the opportunity of presenting the proposals for the sports development and new residential development. They say they will then consider comments prior to the submission of the planning application. 
Please attend and make your views known.

Dunnocksfold Road

Unfortunately, we lost the Dunnocksfold Road appeal.

The Inspector at the appeal said:

“the Council has not demonstrated a five year supply of deliverable housing sites in the borough” and “the position of the council as to whether it has an identified supply of housing land, has swung backwards and forwards throughout the appeal process.”

We understand that Cheshire East is currently considering whether or not to appeal the decision.

Michael Jones is reported in the Local Paper as being “broken hearted ” over the decision.  Hopefully Michael Jones’ feelings on the matter and the potential impact on Alsager residents will be sufficient motivation for Cheshire East to fight for Alsager.

The cost to ratepayers of all of these the appeals is  ridiculous of course.  It has been brought about because of Cheshire East’s inability to deliver an accepted Local Plan and the Government’s policy (National Planning Policy Framework. – NPPF ) which insists that in the absence of a Local Plan there must be a presumption in favour of development.  In other words, development becomes planning proposal / developer led as opposed to planned.

Additional Crewe Road Planning Application

Additional Crewe Road Planning Application

An outline application for the erection of up to 70 houses on Crewe Road has been submitted.  It is application number 14/3054C and it can be viewed on the Cheshire East website here.

This site  goes from the current building site on Crewe Road to  the Plough.

This greenfield site is not in the Town Strategy or the Cheshire East Local Plan. It is outside the settlement boundary and if accepted by Cheshire East, it would be additional to Alsager’s housing allocation.

You can see a breakdown of  housing development around Alsager here.

The last date for objections is 31/7/2015.

The MMU – A Lost Opportunity for Alsager

ARAG wrote to Fiona Bruce on 29th June 2014 concerning the loss of 500 job opportunities in Alsager and the ‘party political’ blocks which deliberately obstructed the establishment of a University Technical College (UTC) in our town.  At the beginning of March we fully informed Fiona Bruce, and the Leader of Cheshire East (Michael Jones), of this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity and since then it has proved impossible to establish any constructive dialogue with either party.   The ARAG proposal and this great opportunity have been ignored and wasted.

Ten days after having acknowledged receipt of our letter of 29/06, there has been no response from Fiona Bruce and therefore we make our letter publicly available here.

We consider it a disgrace that the wishes of our Community, and the opportunities presented by bringing up to 500 new jobs and a UTC to Alsager, have been ignored in this way.

This is even more ridiculous when considering the likelihood that Cheshire East actions will bring more than 2,500 houses ( more than 6,000 new residents, a minimum of 50% growth ) to Alsager in the next 20 years.  Presumably, when the damage has been done and the present incumbents have achieved their objectives and moved on,  the next step will be to try and develop a College and bring new jobs to the area.  We – and our children and grandchildren – are the ones who will have to live with their so called “hard decisions”.

Instead of becoming a Centre of Excellence, with growth of jobs and opportunities, Alsager is condemned to to become a large commuter town with little in the way of infrastructure.

It appears to us that the stance taken by Michael Jones and Fiona Bruce assumes we will simply go away if they maintain their silence.  We feel that the level of  support that we have been given by residents and the tremendous amount of hard work involving numerous people on this project deserve to be treated professionally and to be given some answers.  WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY and would urge as many of you as possible to write, telephone and send your e-mails to both Fiona Bruce and Michael Jones expressing the obvious disappointment which we know exists within the community.   We need your support in this matter if it is simply not to fade away.

WHITE MOSS UPDATE

White Moss Information Update.

ARAG has questioned the information that objections to this development previously submitted, to Cheshire East Planning, would be ignored because an amended application had been submitted. It seemed wrong that where an application number had not changed, and only part of the developer’s application information had been amended, that all residents objections would have to be re-submitted.

ARAG approached Councillor Derek Longhurst (Independent) and asked him to seek clarification from the Cheshire East Case Officer, for the White Moss application, and he has received e-mail confirmation that all objections from residents will be taken into consideration but residents should send further comments regarding the latest changes made by the applicant if considered necessary.

We would therefore encourage everyone to look carefully at the additional documents, recently added to the application webpage (available here) and submit your objections by 17th July 2014.

You can find some background information on the previous White Moss application here.

White Moss – Amended Proposal

The White Moss planning proposal has been changed, so that now 350 houses are proposed on the site for this phase, instead of the previously proposed 1,000. You can find the objection pages here

If you submitted an objection to the previous 1,000 houses, it is important to re-submit.  You have until 17/7/2014.

Cheshire East decided unilaterally to include the White Moss as a Strategic Location and increase Alsager’s housing Allocation.  This has now grown from the 1,000 agreed in the Town Strategy to 1,600.  In the coming months we can expect this to rise to at least 2,000.  This action by Cheshire East ignored the Town Council, the Town Strategy and all objections to this proposal and the increase in Alsager’s allocation.  It has been imposed without agreement.  In doing this and including the White Moss in its submitted Local Plan, Cheshire East is overruling the local community and supporting the developer’s case.  This behaviour is consistent with events of the last 18 months.  Housing is being dumped on Alsager in an unplanned way and in inappropriate places.  There is no coherent attempt to rectify the absence of employment in Alsager or  improve the infrastructure.

You can find some background information on the previous White Moss application here.  You can also look at other objections or the developer’s arguments by going to the application here.  Click on the first column to read the content.

If you want to stop this unwanted development and register your opinion on Cheshire East’s actions, please register your objection before 17/7/2014.

FANNY’S CROFT

FANNY’S CROFT FOOTBALL STADIUM PROPOSAL 

ARAG has received concerns, and there has been much activity on Facebook, about a proposal to build a Football Stadium and Housing Development at Fanny’s Croft, Alsager (off Audley Road).

We understand the problems that Alsager Football Club has with its current location and their desire to significantly improve club facilities and alleviate severe parking problems at their current ground.

Unfortunately, they have chosen the wrong location for their new venture because Fanny’s Croft is in ‘Greenbelt Land’ and building on it would be contrary to long standing planning policy and there does not appear to be any over-riding reasons for setting aside this greenbelt policy.

Furthermore, the Cheshire East Local Plan has been formally submitted to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP, and will be subject to detailed inspection by the Planning Inspectorate prior to its formal adoption. This Local Plan does not include proposals for development of any sort at Fanny’s Croft  and although the Local Plan has yet to be approved by the Planning Inspectorate it already carries significant weight in planning decisions and/or appeals.

Cheshire East is insisting that they can demonstrate a 5 year Supply of Available House Building Land which means that developers should not be able claim that the saved policies of Congleton Borough Council are out of date. This allows the saved policies, regarding Intrusion into Open Countryside and Loss of Agricultural Land, to be employed to prevent the development of Fanny’s Croft.

Highway issues will also play an important role in any decision on development of this site.  Audley Road is narrow, with serious parking problems and an adjacent Railway Level Crossing, and residents are saying “it seems hard to imagine a worse place to add Football Stadium traffic and additional housing”.

RESPONSE TO ARAG’s UTC/MMU PROJECT POST

Overwhelming Reaction to our UTC/MMU Post.

ARAG has been overwhelmed by your reaction, via e-mail and telephone, to the recent ‘Post’ that we published about our University Technical College proposal for the MMU site. These reactions have ranged from absolute disgust to outright anger about the UTC, jobs and educational opportunities lost to our town.

A number of you have asked if it would be a good idea if they were to publicise what has happened by directing people to our ‘Post’ and to contact MMU/DTZ, local MPs, editors of local and national newspapers, the Prime Minister, Michael Gove, local television and radio and anyone else who might have clout.

We have to admit that this would have far more effect than the usual efforts by ARAG officers and would clearly demonstrate the outrage that members of the public so obviously feel. So if you feel able to, do put pen to paper or pick up the telephone and tell the ‘world out there’ about this appalling behaviour by our local politicians.

It is also worth mentioning that while our ‘Post’ explained about the 300 IT jobs that would be created by the Lead Sponsors Development Centre it must be remembered that the UTC itself would create at least a further 150 jobs, across a wide range from teachers/lecturers to support staff, so the total job opportunities lost to Alsager is actually 450.

Alsager has many qualified and skilled people, we really need the jobs here in our town, and there is no clash between an IT based UTC in Alsager and a Industrial based UTC in Crewe. It is incredible that local politicians have closed their minds to this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for purely political reasons.

WHITE MOSS PLANNING MEETING CANCELLED

Strategic Planning Board meeting Cancelled.

The scheduled meeting of the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board to decide on the application to build 1000 houses at White Moss as been cancelled. The Council has issued the following statement:

The Council has now received revised plans for the White Moss Quarry application (ref 13/4132N) in response to the report. These will require further consultation. The Chairman of the Strategic Planning Board has therefore agreed that the application be withdrawn from the agenda for the meeting on 10th June and that the meeting be cancelled.

In our earlier post about the meeting we made reference to the ARAG Traffic Survey which, because we have submitted it as evidence, is now available available on the Cheshire East web site page for application 13/4132N and can be viewed here.

WHITE MOSS 1000 HOUSES

White Moss Planning Application for 1000 Houses.

The White Moss planning proposals for 1,000 houses will be considered at the Strategic Planning Board Meeting at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 10th Jun 2014 in the Municipal Buildings, Earle Street, Crewe.  Cheshire East has undermined any effective objection to this proposal by declaring it a Strategic Location, for 350 houses, in its submitted Local Plan although it recommends Refusal of the current application for 1000 houses. The two reasons given for refusal are based on intrusion into open countryside and highway issues.

For many years, this site has contained a quarry for peat, gravel and sand extraction and there is a long and involved history of dedicated residents objecting to activities on the quarry site and the surrounding fields.  Cheshire East has not enforced the Quarry licence conditions  and in fact, the ombudsman identified 11 counts of Council maladministration associated with the Triangle Field at the entrance to the site. Most of these complaints were associated with removal and falsification of information from the Council web site.

There has been a lot of unusual activity around White Moss information. The latest example is that concerns were raised by BAe Systems Radway in November 2013 which was not made available on the Cheshire East website until the 29th May 2014.  This is unfortunate and again misleading because it showed that BAe systems commissioned a detailed Consultant’s Report which duplicated and pre-dated some of the work done on the ARAG Traffic Survey and came to the same conclusion.  You can view the consultant’s report here

This development is not sustainable.

 

Some of the main objections are:

  • The Quarry Site is subject to a detailed Restoration Order which returns it to a Nature Reserve with Public Access and Water Sport Amenity. So we would not be losing a Sand Quarry – we would be losing a future Nature Reserve and Public Amenity.

  • Noise Pollution from the M6 Motorway is often above 72db, which puts it into the governments Planning Guideline, Noise Exposure ‘D’ Category , where Planning Permission should normally be Refused.

  • Air Pollution levels have not been measured on this site to prove that they are within national safety limits. Dangerous particulate pollution and hourly Nitrogen Dioxide gas limits have not been measured. There is no evidence that the site will be safe for people to live so close to the motorway but there is published evidence that living so close to a motorway is a health risk.

  • Alsager is an Area of Restraint, for house building, because of its proximity to Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme who have government supported Regeneration Area Status. These two authorities have already voiced their concerns and submitted formal objections about any proposed house building on White Moss.

  • Traffic from this site, together with the cumulative impact of other developments in Alsager will place an unsustainable load on the traffic network and threaten the viability of the Radway industrial complex.

  • Cheshire East senior officers have already admitted, at Planning Appeals, that Alsager is NOT Sustainable as a Key Service Centre because of shortage of employment and having some roads that are operating above capacity. The town just can’t support this massive development on its doorstep.

  • The Triangle Field, which is where the main entrance to the site would be, is the subject of an Ombudsman’s Investigation. The 11 counts of Cheshire East’s mal-administration contributed to their ‘flawed decision’ to issue a Certificate of Lawful Establish Use or Development (CLEUD). The Triangle Field is greenfield and not licensed for quarrying so should not be included within the site.

The ARAG UTC / MMU Project

The ARAG UTC / MMU Project

Over the last 18 months, ARAG has worked very hard with the Community, to keep residents informed and trying to defend Alsager from damaging levels of speculative housing development and the loss of our greenfields. We have also tried to promote the best use of our brownfield sites together with relevant improvements in infrastructure. It isn’t yet appropriate to publish an analysis of the background of planning matters and the decisions which have affected Alsager, as currently there are several applications and appeal decisions pending.

We do feel however, that we need to explain how the ARAG MMU / UTC project has developed, because of the tremendous support this proposal received from the Community. It does appear that Alsager will miss the only window of opportunity we will have to develop what could have been a project of major benefit to our Community. This project would have had an impact across the entire town in terms of jobs education and the local economy.

You can read a detailed analysis of the background to this position here.

Nick Boles Meeting 29/05/2014

Nick Boles Meeting 29/05/2014 – Sandbach Town Hall.

Nick Boles,the Minister for Housing in the Department for Communities and Local Government, came to Sandbach on Thursday 29/5/2014 to meet an invited audience of Residents’ Groups and interested councillors from across the constituency – Alsager Town Council was represented by the Independent Councillor. Fiona Bruce had set up the meeting in the Sandbach Town Hall, which she chaired herself.  The subject of the meeting was planning and the impact which current planning is having on our communities.

ARAG Officers attended the meeting and we expressed our point of view strongly.  There was also very robust and critical input from all of the communities represented in the room, especially from the Congleton representatives whose views are very similar to our own.

Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East,  was present throughout the meeting and spent much of the time shaking his head at the comments made by Nick Boles.

ARAG made it clear to Nick Boles that there was a lot of anger in the Community at the way he and his National Policy Planning Framework have damaged and continue to damage our area.  This point of view was strengthened and supported by other speakers.  Many of them pointed out that this policy will lose conservative votes at the general election.  Even people who have voted Conservative all their lives  stated  they will not vote Conservative at the 2015 general election because of the ridiculous planning decisions being made and facilitated by the NPPF and its interpretation by Planning Inspectors, Central Government and Cheshire East,.

The key points raised by the audience were:

  • The government knew when it introduced the NPPF that Local Authorities would find it impossible to produce an acceptable Local Plan in the timescale set.  This is especially true of Cheshire East, a new Unitary Authority, made up of 3 former Cheshire Boroughs.  One Cheshire East councillor, however, made the observation that “when setting up the new authority  Cheshire East  had more important things to do.”

  • The government knew this would result in a wave of speculative development against the wishes of the Community and provided no protection.  Our area has been targeted by developers and our local and centrally elected representatives allowed this to happen.

  • The government knows that the NPPF will facilitate development in entirely inappropriate places if a Local Authority does not have a Local Plan or if it is unable to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing.  This, of course, is the case with Cheshire East.  Our Local Plan has been recently submitted for inspection but in all probability will not be in place until mid -2015 or even 2016.  Why can’t the government protect Communities from speculative, unplanned and inappropriate development in this interim period?  Why has the government abandoned the Communities they serve?

  • This government has done nothing to increase jobs in Alsager.  Cheshire East’s Chief Planning Officer has stated that Alsager is unsustainable  from the points of view of employment and infrastructure. It is also an area of restraint to support regeneration activities in the Potteries.  Why then is Central Government and Cheshire East targeting Alsager with a 40%-60% growth in population?

  • Communities throughout Cheshire East engaged in a planning process to produce Town Strategies as part of the Government funded pathways initiative. These documents were inputs to the Local Plan.  It has become very clear from all the recent planning appeals  that these documents carry no weight whatsoever.  They are regarded as evidential documents only and will not be considered.  Why can’t the government listen to the conclusions drawn by the communities and insist that these documents do carry weight? We were very surprised by Nick Boles lack of any knowledge of how town plans, for which they paid, had emerged, how local communities engaged in this process, and how they had been totally dismissed by developers, inspectors and at times by local authority officers at appeals.

  • Cheshire East has chosen to ignore the Town Strategies and in Alsager’s case, increased the allocation by 60% from 1,000 to 1,600.  This is a top-down allocation imposed by Cheshire East in order to meet an artificial top-down number for the whole of the Authority.  It ignores the wishes of the Community.  Communities believed that the Town Strategy process was Localism in action and the Government and Cheshire East have demonstrated that Localism, just like the Communities,  has been abandoned.  In the meantime, because there is no protection from Developers; every planning application, even when outside the Local Plan,  has been won by the Developers.

  • The point was made that this government introduced the NPPF and it clearly isn’t working.  When a plan doesn’t work, you change it.  Why won’t the government change the NPPF to protect the Communities it supposedly serves?

  • Why should a Community be punished and damaged with inappropriate housing and inadequate infrastructure simply because an Authority can’t meet its target  for the whole of the Authority?

Nick Boles attempted to counter all of these arguments by saying that his hands were tied. Legislation has to apply consistently across the country and therefore exceptions could not be made.  He presented statistics which in his view justified high levels of housing development and also indicated that housing density in England was low.  In his view, he also said that if Labour  win in 2015, the situation will get worse. You may not find his comments surprising.

His main thrust was that everyone had experienced a level of pain but it wasn’t his fault.

The problem he said, lies with Cheshire East for not producing a Local Plan.  Communities would be protected if robust Local Plans were in place and Neighbourhood plans were developed. He indicated his own personal support for Neighbourhood plans, stating that these could provide levels of protection.  He informed the meeting that “Local Plans are good but neighbourhood plans are brilliant” .  He gave an example of how one such plan had withstood rigorous testing throughout the whole planning process. What he did not comment on was that this Neighbourhood Plan had emerged from a Local Authority that had a well established strong Local Plan within which this registered plan sat and from which it did indeed emerge. This hardly reflects the situation in the Cheshire East region.

The audience clearly considered the Minister’s position to be disingenuous and bad advice, as :

  • Cheshire East does not have any enthusiasm for Neighbourhood Plans and in fact during the course of the meeting we were told how they had discouraged local communities from engaging in this process. The L.A. is central to the production of such a plan and without Council commitment a Neighbourhood Plan would prove to be pointless exercise.

  • It would take at least 2 years to produce a Neighbourhood plan, significant amounts of money (c. £40,000 for a Town the size of Alsager for which the government offers grants for ‘up to £7000)) and a lot of effort for no proven gain..

  • The Neighbourhood plan must be consistent with the Local Plan.so it was not at all clear to the audience what a Neighbourhood plan would contribute, especially in the light of the region’s experience of developingTown Strategies..

  • By the time that the Local Plan is accepted and a Neighbourhood plan has been produced, it will be too late.  The damage will be complete, the local market will be saturated and the only planning will be Developer-led, as commercial interests dictate.

  • If the government chose to limit speculative development according to Local Authority planning department advice and emerging Local Plans, it could do so. After all, this government introduced the NPPF, it could very easily amend or abandon it.  There is clearly no political will to stop speculative and inappropriate  development. A view was expressed from the audience that the conservative party had accepted considerable funding from Developers and was also bent on economic growth of any kind anywhere no matter what the cost in order to win the general election in 2015. Nick Boles was invited to indicate his support for a Liberal Democrat Bill to amend the NPPF but did not respond to the offer.

Michael Jones was requested to put the last question to Nick Boles which was “ when are your Inspectors going to work and deliver a consistent message and interpretation of the NPPF in the appeals process.”  This comment was in line with his usual attempt to ‘shift the blame’ away from the failures of Cheshire East Council onto Inspectors in this case.

Nick Boles gave a very confused and mixed view of the importance of the Local Plan.. During his delivery the local plan was viewed as paramount and the lack of it was the reason for our current predicament and situation. Then, when he was attempting to sell localism, he urged us to put our energies into producing Neighbourhood Plans to which, very clearly, a majority of the audience responded sceptically and negatively.

His final comment gave us the view that he was not about to change his mind regarding housing and he does not share the view that the coalition, by maintaining this policy, is destroying whole areas of countryside. Most development is taking place on greenfields with brownfields largely undeveloped.

Nick Boles, throughout the meeting, referred to housing numbers and allocations with no reference to the sustainability of communities, inadequate infrastructure or services. Indeed when this was raised by various speakers he simply ignored the question. He did not appear to understand or acknowledge the damage being done by not implementing infrastructure improvements in line with the growing demands on that infrastructure.

The simple fact for us in Alsager is that we are three to four years behind the game. We could not develop a Neighbourhood Plan before the examination and approval of the Local Plan. This is not because of anything that we in the community could have done or changed. We are powerless in this process.

Throughout the evening the old game was played yet again whereby local responsibilities have not been resolved or delivered “for understandable reasons”  meaning that National politicians could not have any blame for such situations laid at their door. They must be seen to be blameless.. Local politicians put the view that they are having to comply with imposed regulations that were “not fit for purpose.

Partnership Town Council Meeting – Reminder

Town Council Meeting – Partnership Meeting – Reminder

There will be a public Town Council meeting at the Civic on Monday 2nd June 2014 at 7.00 pm. The previous post about this meeting is included below.

Alsager Partnership Public Meeting – 2nd June 2014

The Alsager Partnership, which receives funding of £22,000 per year from the Town Council, has arranged a Public Meeting at the Civic on Monday 2nd June 2014 at 7.00 pm.

This is the first ever opportunity for local residents to see who are the members of the Partnership and to question them about past and future activities. It would appear that all of their meetings have been in private, not advertised or open to the public, and no minutes or financialaccounts were published. If you know little about what the Partnership actually does, then this is an opportunity for you to come along and find out more.

The Partnership was involved in the process of producing the Draft Town Strategy that included a number of Greenfield sites for potential housing development which were only removed following large scale public meetings. This draft document has subsequently been used repeatedly in Public Inquiries, by Developer’s and their QC’s, against the interests of the Alsager community.

In addition, many residents contacted ARAG over the Sainsbury’s Supermarket planning application because they could not understand why the Partnership, which was set up to represent the whole of the Alsager community, campaigned against the application – against the clear wishes of the overwhelming majority of residents. Residents may wish to ask what process the Partnership used to elicit the views of the community.

If the Partnership is in receipt of your money, then it is important that it is representative of the whole community and is an organisation that operates in an open and transparent manner.

Do come along, seek answers to your questions, and express your views.

PARTNERSHIP PUBLIC MEETING

Alsager Partnership Public Meeting – 2nd June 2014

The Alsager Partnership, which receives funding of £22,000 per year from the Town Council, has arranged a Public Meeting at the Civic on Monday 2nd June 2014 at 7.00 pm.

This is the first ever opportunity for local residents to see who are the members of the Partnership and to question them about past and future activities. It would appear that all of their meetings have been in private, not advertised or open to the public, and no minutes or financial accounts were published. If you know little about what the Partnership actually does, then this is an opportunity for you to come along and find out more.

The Partnership was involved in the process of producing the Draft Town Strategy that included a number of Greenfield sites for potential housing development which were only removed following large scale public meetings. This draft document has subsequently been used repeatedly in Public Inquiries, by Developer’s and their QC’s, against the interests of the Alsager community.

In addition, many residents contacted ARAG over the Sainsbury’s Supermarket planning application because they could not understand why the Partnership, which was set up to represent the whole of the Alsager community, campaigned against the application – against the clear wishes of the overwhelming majority of residents. Residents may wish to ask what process the Partnership used to elicit the views of the community.

If the Partnership is in receipt of your money, then it is important that it is representative of the whole community and is an organisation that operates in an open and transparent manner.

Do come along, seek answers to your questions, and express your views.

European Hustings

We have been asked to inform residents that there will be an opportunity to hear from and question candidates who are standing for the European elections for the North West Region.  The public meeting will take place on Friday 16/5 at 19.00 hrs in the Civic.

If your are interested to discover who will be representing us in Europe, this is your opportunity to meet them.  The agenda set for the presenters  is:

7.00-7.15pm 1 and a half minutes to talk to public about your party or if you are the candidate    you can talk about yourself or both.
7.15-7.45pm Topic 1: Agricultural land

Topic 2: Energy

7.45-8pm: Break
8.00-8.45pm Topic 3: In/Out of Europe

Topic 4: Immigration

8.45-9pm Meeting the audience/questions from the audience.

 

CLOSE LANE INQUIRY

Close Lane Planning Inquiry

The latest in a long round of Planning Inquiries was held in Crewe, for four days last week, relating to the first application of Muller on the site at Close Lane.  (13/1305N)

The inspector, Mrs Karen Baker made it clear from the first day that she regarded the focus of the Inquiry to be centred on four areas,

1. Effect on the Countryside,

2. Sustainability

3. Loss of agricultural land and

4. Demonstration of a 5 year supply of land.

Inevitably the evidence which followed did concentrate on these important themes.

The Council presented its evidence first, led by Richard Humphreys QC who has acted for Cheshire East on a number of previous appeals. Mr Stock, a partner from Deloitte, specialising in Planning, was the Council’s leading witness. He was clearly knowledgeable, well prepared and a confident and credible witness. His evidence and cross examination continued for well over a day.The cross examination was by Jeremy Cahill QC, acting for Muller, who as may be expected pulled no punches. It can only be hoped that his often overbearing style did nothing to impress the Inspector. Certainly it did not seem to put Mr Stock off his stride.

Anyone else speaking at an appeal, other than the two legal teams, is referred to as a Third party witnesses and there were 10 in all. A good mixture of Hon Alderman Derek Bould President of ARAG, two Haslington councillors, two Cheshire East councillors, living in Alsager, Derek Longhurst (Alsager Town Councillor) and a good range of local residents developed their arguments based on the Inquiry’s main themes. Their presentations were well coordinated and sought to avoid repetition.In some cases some cross examination followed by Mr Cahill and the witnesses were able to give as good as they got.

Throughout the Inquiry the Inspector treated the third party witnesses with the utmost respect and even gave them the opportunity to ask questions of Muller’s witnesses, not something which has been experienced in previous appeals.

The third party witnesses came away with the strong view that they had been properly heard and that their views had been taken seriously.

Without rehearsing all the third party witness presentations here,  much play was put on the impact of the loss of Countryside on the local residents. This is not merely a visual impact but a loss of amenity. Footpaths were a particular emphasis with local resident Victoria Beddow talking of her young family having enjoyed these footpaths for many years on a regular basis.The paths will of course be preserved but the impact of any development on the locale could not be denied by Mr Cahill. The inspector on her formal visit was later to find and walk the main path in question. So important was this argument that it was specifically referred to by Mr Humphreys QC in his closing statement.

Much evidence was presented on sustainability. In essence the site is simply in the wrong place and no provision ‘of an infrequent bus service’ (often serving Alsager by an indirect route) will ameliorate this. Ian White in his evidence specifically challenged Muller on the suggestion that the bus service (to which Muller propose to provide £50,000 per annum for five years) will become financially self-sufficient after that period. Muller could not provide the evidence Mr White challenged them to produce that this was the case, or indeed had been the case in any publicly funded bus service.

Muller put forward an agricultural witness on the loss of agricultural land. Their arguments were weak and we hope that the Inspector will take into account the many submissions by residents on this, coupled with her own site visit. It is pleasing to note that a number of the fields in question have recently been ploughed, giving a good indication of their potential, rather than appearing to lie fallow. We are confident that the Inspector who certainly visited that area of the site will have noted this.

As may be expected the five year supply of land, which has been the critical and fatal area in so many recent local appeals, was the subject of much debate. We can only hope that the arguments put forward this time on behalf of the Council (vehemently refuted of course by the Muller team) are not only correct in fact and law but accepted by the Inspector.

An interesting legal argument arose on the last day of the Inquiry. This related to an entry lodged at the Land Registry in respect of Yew Tree Farm which forms part of the site. A former owner who now lives in America has some protected rights. Although he now has no legal interest in the farm, the Council argues that his Unilateral Notice prevents the Section 106 planning agreement (which would be required to be completed to bind the developer to its obligation on highways works, contribution to the bus, etc) from being properly executed.

The Inspector invited both parties to submit written arguments on this within 14 days and this will further delay the ultimate decision. All of this is preparatory work on the agreement, which would be required, should permission actually be granted.

Whilst the feeling of many who attended parts of the Inquiry was that it was conducted in a very open and positive way, it’s the outcome and not the process which really matters. It is always impossible to predict which way the Inspector will go. She certainly has a detailed and complicated case to decide on. It is critical not just for us locally but in setting a precedent for other cases to follow.

We are certainly satisfied that the case for the Council was well put. The local third party witnesses added significantly to that. Indeed at the very end of the Inquiry the Inspector and even Jeremy Cahill QC thanked the third parties for the professionalism and dignity in which they had conducted themselves “we know that in a sense we are trampling over your emotions and communities. The reception we get can be very aggressive and challenging” said Mr Cahill “We have not found that here and we are very grateful”

A positive feeling at the end of four days of evidence so let’s hope now for a positive outcome.

A decision is unlikely for several months.

ARAG wishes to thank the Close Lane local resident who provided this detailed report on an appeal which was somewhat more complex than usual.

NO EXTRA LORRIES

Application for more lorries to operate from White Moss withdrawn.

An application, submitted to the Traffic Commissioner by Total Concrete Products Ltd, to operate lorries from the White Moss Quarry site has been withdrawn by the applicant.

This information has been provided, by the Traffic Commissioner’s Leeds office,  to Close Lane residents who had complained about the increase in vehicles operating from the site.

Cheshire East Local Plan – Last Opportunity

Further to our previous post on this subject, which you can view here, comments on the Cheshire East Local Plan need to be submitted by Thursday 25/4/2013.

This is your last chance to comment on the plan here.

Contrary to the quota of 1,000 agreed in the Town Plan, Cheshire East has unilaterally decided to increase Alsager’s housing allocation to 1,600.  This is a minimum level, as Cheshire East has previously demonstrated erratic decision making and a willingness to approve inappropriate Greenfield sites on several occasions.

Cheshire East is also promoting housing development  on the White Moss, which is an unsuitable location, because of  its proximity to the M6 and the fact that is is contrary to the policy on carbon emissions, air pollution and noise.  For a range of reasons, this so called  ”strategic location” is contrary to the expressed wishes of the Town Council, the objections of Newcastle Under Lyme Borough council, the MP and the Community.  It is also important to note that Cheshire East’s proposal for White Moss, contrary to the impression given in the Local Plan, includes agricultural land such as the Triangle field, and these areas would probably be the first to receive housing.  The infill generated by this development, if adopted, will no doubt be the subject of future speculative development proposals.

The Local Plan is also vague on which of the high quality buildings and sports fields on the MMU site will be retained for the Community but it does state that the facilities will eventually be replaced by facilities in Crewe. ( see 15.199 in the Local Plan)

 

Sainsbury’s is coming to Alsager

Sainsbury’s Application Approved

Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board unanimously approved the Sainsbury’s Supermarket application at their meeting on Wednesday so the development on the Twyfords site will go ahead. Thank you to the many residents who attended to demonstrate there views on this important issue.

A more detailed report of the meeting will be made available soon.

Strategic Planning Board

Sainsbury’s Application – Latest

ARAG has been advised not to attend  the Strategic Planning Board before 2.30 pm on Wednesday 2nd April 2014. This is because the Sainsbury’s Application is item 12 on the Agenda and will not be debated until the afternoon session.

So if you do intend to be present, it will not be necessary to turn up until after lunch and you will not have to sit through the morning session in the Council Chamber, Municipal Buildings, Earl Street, Crewe.

We hope that many of you will wish to attend to demonstrate how you feel about this important issue for our community. A good turn out certainly influences the members of the Strategic Planning Board.

Strategic Planning Board – Sainsburys

The proposal to develop a Sainsburys Supermarket store on the Twyfords site will be considered at a meeting of the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board on Wednesday 2/4/2014 at the Council Chamber, Municipal Buildings, Earle Street, Crewe

You can view the agenda here.

The Planning Officer responsible for considering this proposal recommends approval and the justification for that recommendation is contained in the report here.

The meeting starts at 10.30 and Sainsburys is item 12 on the agenda.

A strong attendance from residents would demonstrate local interest in the proposal.

Feedback received from residents shows that there is strong interest in this proposal.  Most of that feedback has been in favour.  Some of the views expressed are listed in the report and there will be a brief  opportunity for registered speakers to make their views clear at the meeting.  

Cheshire East Local Plan

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: 

Site   Allocated Comment
White Moss 350 Planning application for 1,000 houses outstanding
Twyfords and Cardway                                         550
MMU 350
Hall Drive 109
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       
Total 1564

 

The following table shows other possible housing developments.

 

Site                      Possible Additional Comments
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
Totals             1071

 

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.

Conclusions

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 

             andy.brennan@alsagertowncouncil.org.uk or see the council web site here

DECISION DAY

Close Lane Decision Day

The planning application 13/4150N, for 132 houses on Close Lane, is to be decided by Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board on Tuesday 18th March 2014.

This is a re-submission of application 12/1305N, which was rejected on 21st June 2013, for which the developer Muller Property Group have appealed. There were over 650 objection to the first application and there have been 450 objections to the latest application.

To persuade the Council to accept this application, we are told the developer has offered to contribute to a bus service and to construct a pavement along the lane in front of the houses between Nursery Road and Delamere Court.

The meeting will take place at the Assembly Rooms, Macclesfield and because the Close Lane application is item 10 on the agenda it is not expected to be debated until the later part of the afternoon. It always helps if there are residents present, so come along and support the speakers if you can.

Dunnocksfold Road Appeal

Dunnocksfold Road Appeal

The Dunnocksfold Road appeal finished today (Tuesday 11/3/2014) with the site visit.  The Inspector arrived at 08.15 on a beautiful day and was taken to see the traffic and school rush at the junction with Hassall Road.  It wasn’t permitted to add any new points on the site visit, because the evidence had all been taken.  The claims made by ARAG during the appeal that Dunnocksfold can be dangerous, were reinforced however by the steady stream of students, several near misses and some erratic driving.  The narrowness of the footpath and the risk it presents also became very apparent to the Inspector.

ARAG arranged for the Inspector to view the site from 3 appropriate houses and accompanied the Inspector on a walk along the footpath which runs along the boundary of the proposed site. Councillor Longhurst from the Alsager Town Council also attended.

The Inspector will now consider the evidence and the site visit and make her decision.

A previous post explained that the developer has also submitted  a second proposal for Dunnocksfold Road while this appeal was outstanding.  This second proposal has been deferred by Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board and it is our understanding that it will not be considered until the decision of the Inspector has been published.  It is  very unfortunate (mystifying?)  that the Cheshire East planning officer (case officer) saw fit to recommend acceptance of the second proposal while Cheshire East itself was fighting the appeal.  This obvious inconsistency of approach was picked up and fully exploited by the developer’s barrister.

It isn’t possible to predict the outcome of the appeal but it is clear that the case was unnecessarily weakened as discussed in previous posts.

Rowan Cheshire

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the previous post, Rowan had a training accident.  She will now not be competing.

We have been informed  that the 9.45  event at the civic, outlined in the previous post, will still take place however, should residents wish show their support.

Support Alsager Olympic Athlete Rowan Cheshire

Members have requested that we publicise our local Olympic athlete, Rowan Cheshire and request support from the Community.

Rowan Cheshire is an Alsager girl competing in the half-pipe. At 9.45 am on Thursday 20/2, Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, will raise the Union Jack outside the Civic Centre.  There will be flags for everyone to wave and cheer.

Rowan was hurt in training on Sunday. We hope she’ll be well enough to compete. Please come along and show your support regardless.

2:30pm The Alsager Arms will be showing the event live on their big screen TV. Everyone (including children) is welcome.

Dunnocksfold Appeal Ends

Dunnocksfold Road Appeal – 10/2/2014 – 13/2/2014

The Dunnocksfold Road appeal finished in Macclesfield on Thursday 13/2/2014.  A site visit by the Inspector is still outstanding and will take place 11/3/2014 from 8.00am

Attendance.

ARAG officers attended, gave evidence and spoke on every day of the appeal.  On the first day of the appeal, 6 Alsager Residents gave evidence as did Councillor Derek Hough, who attended for 2 hours.  

Councillor Derek Longhurst attended and gave evidence on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Inspector allowed ARAG officers to contribute throughout the 3 days of the enquiry.

The 5 year Supply

The Strategic Planning Board (SPB) of Cheshire East ( CEC) recently resolved that CEC can now demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing land.  A 5 year supply is very important to all appeals because the lack of a 5 year supply means that CEC policies must be considered out of date and in addition,  there must be a “ presumption in favour of sustainable development”.  The lack of a demonstrable 5 year supply isn’t a “green light for development” but it is a very weighty consideration.

CEC opened the appeal by stating that CEC now considers it can demonstrate a 5 year supply. Mr Timothy Straker QC, the barrister representing CE,  apologised to the Inspector for the late introduction of this evidence.  He also explained that Mr Adrian Fisher, the Strategic Planning Officer of Cheshire East, could not be present at the appeal as he was very busy working on the emerging CEC Local Plan (Submission Document), scheduled for approval by the Full Council on 28th February 2014.  Mr Straker requested deferral of the appeal because Mr Fisher is the only officer with the specialist knowledge to justify the claim of a 5 year supply.  This request was not accepted by the Inspector who asked which was more important, working on the appeal given that CEC had been given plenty of  notice, or working on the Local Plan.

 CEC compromised and made Mr Fisher available on the last morning of the appeal.

Mr Paul Tucker QC, the barrister for the developer, presented detailed arguments which in his view demonstrate that the claim of a 5 year supply is not justified.  In fact he claimed that only 3.88 or 3.16 years can be demonstrated depending on the basis of the calculation.  Although Mr Fisher was present throughout this debate, these claims were not substantially challenged because CEC had not submitted detailed evidence to justify the 5 year supply in a number of areas.

CEC’s ability to demonstrate a 5 year supply will clearly be challenged in future appeals.

It wasn’t clear whether or not the Inspector accepted Mr Tucker’s points but the lack of counter argument from CEC or detailed evidence to support the claim of a 5 year supply clearly weakens Cheshire East’s position.

SPB credibility

Mr Tucker challenged the credibility of the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board, in his closing statement.  The following paragraphs are quotes from Mr Tucker’s Closing Statetement.  

  • “5.2      In a moment of eloquence Cllr Hough drew the analogy of the 5 year land supply debate over the last 18 months in CEC as something of a pantomime.  It is difficult to fault his analysis.  From the evidence it is clear that this is a LPA ( local planning authority) which has viewed achieving a 5 year land supply as a means to resist politically unwelcome development proposals.  Again Cllr Hough was eloquent in explaining that in order to achieve what is believed to be a 5 year land supply that his committee had been granting permission on poor sites in order to resist sites such as the appeal site.”

  • “5.3     The latest scene of the panto was played out last week when in the morning of the SPB’s consideration permission was resolved to be granted to  Kingsley Fields on the basis that the LPA could not demonstrate a 5 year supply.and in the afternoon of the same day it resolved that it could.  The LPA has now moved back into the mode of refusing permissions on the basis of the lack of a 5 year land supply. “

Taking the example of the Dunnocksfold Road planning applications and the appeal, Mr Tucker pointed out that CEC itself had undermined the Dunnocksfold Road appeal by considering a second application for the same site, not significantly different from the first.  In the second case,  CEC officers recommended approval, in contrast to the position which it was taking itself on the appeal. Furthermore, the SPB deferred any decision on the second Dunnocksfold Road application on the basis of insufficient information about the cumulative impact on highways.  

Challenging CEC’s credibility once more, Mr Tucker pointed out that CEC has provided no evidence at the appeal to justify that stance.  ARAG challenged this presumption and submitted evidence from its own Roads survey, which the Inspector will consider.

Mr Tucker further claimed that CEC had undermined its own position by granting planning permission to sites which by its own definition are in “open countryside”.

Reasons for refusal.

Even though objections from residents identified a wide range of reasons for refusal, only two reasons were given by CEC for refusal of the Dunnocksfold application:

  • intrusion into and changing the nature of open countryside

  • damage to and loss of an important hedgerow.

CEC’s own witness considered that the Hedgerow argument by itself did not have sufficient weight to justify a refusal.  Mr Tucker argued that it isn’t damage, it is change.  That only 30 m will be changed and replaced further back from the road.

The key point of disagreement is whether or not the CEC policies which protect open countryside are up to date or indeed sufficient reason to reject the proposal.

CEC did not challenge the appeal on Highway grounds and accepted the appellant’s proposition that 95 houses would only generate between 2 and 5 cars at peak times, which is clearly wrong.

ARAG submitted evidence to the contrary, which the Inspector will consider.

The appellant argued that the Dunnocksfold Road site is surrounded on 3 sides by housing and could therefore not be considered open countryside.  This is clearly ridiculous, in fact, to the West is one farm and to the East there is a Sports Field and then one house. Although Mr Straker did a good job of defending this position on Wednesday, his position was undermined because the Cheshire East Planning Officer had replicated this argument directly from the appellant in his argument to support the second Dunnocksfold planning application.  Mr Tucker of course pointed out that this  was yet another inconsistency.  The same situation applies to the point made by the appellant that there would be no harm to the nature of the surrounding countryside because the site is flat.  This again, although clearly ridiculous, was not defended adequately because of the Planning Officers acceptance of the position.  Cheshire plain countryside is generally flat of course but it is still our countryside.

It is to be hoped that the Inspector will form her own opinions during the site visit

 

The Macclesfield Appeal Environment

The Inspector as well as members of the audience complained about the poor conditions in the appeal.  It was often impossible to hear what was being said and it was so cold that most people had to wear scarves and coats.  This isn’t a planning point but it does reflect badly on our area and the hospitality we offer at appeals and to visiting Inspectors.

Conclusion.

CEC now claims that it can demonstrate a 5 year supply.  This claim will be considered in the Dunnocksfold Road Appeal as well as other appeals coming up.  

It is difficult to understand why CEC would not have adequately tested this claim for robustness.  If it has been tested, that evidence was not made available to the appeal.

The Secretary of State offered help in this area and it appears that help has not been accepted.  The 5 year claim will once again be tested by appeal and considering Mr Tucker’s analysis, there are serious questions to be answered about the validity of the 5 year supply.

By its inconsistent behaviour and decision making the SPB and Cheshire East Planning Officers have undermined this appeal.  Officers recommended approval of a second application when CEC was fighting an appeal against the first and no adequate evidence was provided for its deferral by the SPB.  

Cllr Hough’s comments on the SPB and the “pantomime” surrounding its handling of the 5 year supply is a serious concern.  Granting permission on sites in our area to achieve Cheshire East numbers appears to have taken place  (Rhodes Field and Hall Drive), which is contrary to the rule that councillors must not consider planning applications with pre-conceived ideas.  Cllr Hough is the Vice Chairman of the SPB and he has regularly stated in Town Council meetings that he is proud of the job it does.  These comments served to undermine the credibility of that group which is charged with the responsibility of protecting our community through the production of the Local Plan.

CEC appeared to be badly prepared for this appeal.  The leader of the Council said that CE would fight Dunnocksfold Road tooth and nail.  In ARAG’s opinion, the CE response was weak and we were badly let down. Both the Inspector and the appellant’s barrister appeared to understand our frustration relating to the position we find ourselves in, regarding the absence of a Local Plan and the evidence which such a document primarily should contain. This was demonstrated throughout the 3 days of the enquiry by the latitude given to ARAG officers.

The outcome of this appeal  remains to be decided and it may yet be the case that  the Inspector gives weight to the response from our Community but we are seriously disadvantaged by the facts that CEC does not have a Local Plan, that its 5 year supply is still a matter of opinion which has not been tested and that the SPB is making inconsistent decisions which conflict with its own CEC policies.

Following ARAG objections that Alsager has been subjected to a deluge of planning applications and that this was a speculative application which would take Alsager towards a 50% growth in housing, the Inspector requested that Cheshire East provided a map showing all current Alsager planning proposals ( we have one on our home page ).  It was embarrassing to realise that CEC delivered a map which did not show White Moss Quarry (1,000) , Sandbach Road North ( 160 ) under judicial review ) and Cardway Cartons (140)

What is particularly concerning to ARAG, having seen certain parts of the evidence provided by CEC and by using the example of the map to illustrate our point, is the veracity or accuracy of the information contained within the local plan.  The justification of the claim that a  5 year supply of available housing land exists will depend on this evidence.

The appellant in this enquiry seemed to undermine the claim of C.E. with remarkable ease and demonstrated what appeared to be a coherent rebuttal which is clearly demonstrated in Mr Tucker’s final submission. He comfortably expects the Inspector to support the Appellant’s case and find in favour of the developer.    

No indication was given on a decision timescale but an April date seems likely.

Dunnocksfold Road Appeal – 11/2/2014

The Dunnocksfold Road Appeal will start tomorrow 11/2/2014 at 10.30.

The venue is the Assembly Halls in Macclesfield and the appeal is scheduled to last for 3 days.

On the first day, the Inspector will set the schedule for the duration of the appeal, possibly including a site visit.  Members of the public may speak, at the discretion of the Inspector but the timing of public participation slots is usually arranged on the first day.

The original Dunnocksfold Road proposal, which was specifically excluded in the Alsager Town Plan, was rejected by Cheshire East and the developer appealed that decision.  The basis for the appeal was   that in the developer’s view Cheshire East could not demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing.  Recent appeals elsewhere have confirmed that the planning Inspectorate agreed with that point of view. Cheshire East, however,  has since announced that it can now realistically demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing.  Furthermore, the Inspector at the Sandbach Road North appeal stated that the lack of a 5 year supply was not a green light for all planning permissions to be granted.

It is very important to demonstrate to the Inspector that the Alsager Community does not want uncontrolled and unwanted  development.  Please come to Macclesfield tomorrow and support your town, Alsager.

 

5 YEAR HOUSING LAND SUPPLY

CHESHIRE EAST NOW HAS 5 YEAR HOUSING LAND SUPPLY

Next Wednesday’s Strategic Planning Board will receive a “Cheshire East Housing Land Supply – Position Statement (31st December 2013)” which is their latest update of the current situation and is in response to the recent Planning Inspectors Decisions – which determined that the previous Housing Land Supply Statement (February 2013) was invalid.

The report states that Cheshire East now has a 5.87 year housing land supply, even when a 5% buffer is applied to allow for under-provision over the last few years. If a 20% buffer is applied, which is argued by most of the developers, Cheshire East still has a 5.14 year housing land supply.

Once the Strategic Planning Board has adopted the recommendation “that the Housing Land Supply – Position Statement (31st December 2013) be given due weight in the determination of planning applications” it will provided much greater protection from the Speculative Development Applications, which we suffer. 

We understand that this will also apply to the current applications and appeals, which have yet to be decided, even though they were submitted before next Wednesday’s Strategic Planning Board.

The report also states that the emerging Local Plan Strategy – Submission Version, is due to be presented to the Strategic Planning Board on the 26th February 2014 prior to being considered by the Full Council on the 27th February 2014.

We do not yet know if the White Moss site will be included in this document, so the final Planned housing numbers for Alsager remain a mystery.

ARAG IMPACT ASSESSMENT

TRAFFIC SURVEY PROGRESS

ACCESS hdpc, the consultants appointed by ARAG to undertake a traffic survey as stage 1 of an overall Impact Assessment, have completed their traffic counts and during the first few days of this week will be collecting photographic evidence of traffic queues at peak times.

ACCESS hdpc will then produce their report, which may take up to a couple of weeks because of the number of problem road junctions which have had to be surveyed. Once the report is completed we will be able to submit it, as material evidence, to Cheshire East as an Independent Professional Transport Assessment.

Transport Assessments provided by developers are usually desktop exercises but ours will be underpinned by actual traffic counts which should give them considerably more weight in the Strategic Planning Board’s debates.

A huge thank you to all residents who have contributed towards the Impact Survey Fund and, although we are still a few hundred pounds short of the estimated final cost, we have already raised about £2000.  WELL DONE

We will report again once the Survey has been published.

‘RHODES FIELD’ – APPROVED

RHODES FIELD application APPROVED

The Rhodes Field Planning Application for 110 houses was approved at Thursday’s Strategic Planning Board meeting, which at times was little more than a poorly attended shambles.

At any one time there was a maximum of 9 members present (of a 14 member Board) with some attending up to the lunch break and others only appearing for the afternoon session.  We believe that this was the result of Cheshire East arranging the meeting at very short notice and therefore it would have clashed with councillors other commitments.  ARAG only became aware of the meeting on Tuesday evening.

One member indicated that he was going to vote against the Rhodes Field site because of the Pylon; and that he had personal experience of people developing cancer. He was accused of having a ‘Pre-determined view’, was cross examined by the Cheshire East legal officer and eventually had to leave the room for the remainder of the debate.

Councillor Rod Fletcher, Alderman Derek Bould and Sylvia Dyke made effective detailed presentations, objecting to the application, and answered questions from members of the Strategic Planning Board.

During the debate; Councillor David Brickhill ‘moved’ a motion to refuse, the application, which was ‘seconded’ by Councillor Derek Hough.

They both did a really good job of arguing that the cumulative effect, of a range of 9 detailed points, was adequate reason to refuse the application. Some of the points identified were Noise, Dust, Objections from Newcastle-under-Lyme Council, Highways and failure to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework.

When it came to the vote; 3 were in favour of refusal and 3 were against, with two abstaining, including the Chairman.

A discussion followed about whether an alternative motion was needed but the Legal Officer told the Chairman that he had a casting vote.

The Chairman, Cllr Davenport, then voted against the motion and so it was lost !

Further debate followed; which led to Cllr Peter Mason moving Approval and the resulting vote was 4 in favour of approval and 3 against, with one abstention.

 

That such critical decisions can be made, when such a small number of the members are present, is appalling. Sadly for us, Cllr Brendan Murphy who has often strongly supported our efforts, had to leave at lunch time; otherwise the outcome may well have been much different.

URGENT – RHODES FIELD APPLICATION

RHODES FIELD TO BE DECIDED ON THURSDAY

ARAG has only just learned that the Strategic Panning Board will meet at Macclesfield on Thursday 23rd January (TOMORROW) and they will be considering an officer’s recommendation to Approve the Rhodes Field application (13/3032C) for 110 houses.

ARAG had checked the Cheshire East web site a little over a week ago; which showed that the meeting scheduled for the 15th January had been cancelled and the next scheduled meeting was 5th February 2014. If two of ARAG’s officers had not been attending Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, and listening to the Agenda item for Cheshire East Councillor’s reports, we would still be ignorant of the fact.

We have approached Councillor Derek Hough, who is Vice Chairman of the Strategic Planning Board, and offered to Post details of any meetings which include Alsager sites if he will inform ARAG as soon as he is notified of any such meetings by Cheshire East.

Of equal concern; is that two of our senior officers are attending a very important meeting, which cannot be rearranged at such short notice, one is out of the country and the other out of the county. Councillor Fletcher is registered to speak and we are working to get a member of the public available to speak but that could still leave us short on our usual contingent of speakers.

We are appalled that Cheshire East is behaving in this way.

Meeting with Michael Jones.

Michael Jones meets with Residents at the Town Council.

The Town Council had invited Michael Jones to attend its Planning Committee meeting rather than arranging an open public meeting. The Planning Committee’s normal venue is the Alsager Institute and it was utterly predictable that this could prove to be an inadequate facility to meet the level of interest from Alsager residents. Despite representations to the Town Council prior to the meeting the venue was not changed with the result that the room was massively overcrowded and some residents were even forced to stand in the corridor or left because there was no space for them.

For the sake of clarity and so that there is no ambiguity on this matter, ARAG was not involved in any consultations on these arrangements. Our preference would have been to have an open Public Meeting in a suitable venue.

During the course of the meeting Councillor Jones did offer to return to meet with Alsager residents at such a meeting so long as the Town Council agreed to its arrangement. ARAG will seek to initiate these arrangements in the near future.

At Tuesday’s meeting residents asked a wide range of very sensible questions, in particular about the treatment of Alsager within Cheshire East’s Local Plan and the disproportionate allocation of housing to the town, although many other equally important issues were raised.

Councillor Jones responded to all questions but some felt that their questions had only been answered in part.

You can find an account of last night’s meeting if you click here

A Ridiculous Venue for a Meeting

A Ridiculous Venue for Tuesday Night’s Meeting.

We would like to thank everyone who attended Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting and managed to gain access and apologise to those of you who were disappointed because you were prevented from participating.

We can understand the frustration, felt by many residents, at not being able to get into this very important Planning Meeting to hear and question Michael Jones, the Leader of Cheshire East Council.

We have repeatedly told the Town Council that the Institute is totally unsuitable, when dealing with an issue that is of vital importance, and an e-mail had been sent to the Town Council asking them to arrange a more suitable venue. When they recently used the Civic, for their planning meetings, they arranged them at 4.00pm in the afternoon and grumbled when very few residents turned up. They simply overlooked the basic fact that, at that time in the afternoon, a large proportion of local people are at work. When this was pointed out, by people in the audience, nothing was done to reschedule the start time of the second meeting.

Considering that our Town Council now own, and run, the Civic it seems unbelievable that they can’t organise access for their own important meetings; or is it simply that they only want paying customers during the evenings?

ARAG posted information about the meeting; when the Town Council notified us that Michael Jones would be attending and would answer questions. Obviously they should have arranged a more suitable venue for a meeting which was clearly going to be of major interest to, and attended by, very many Alsager residents. Even if the Civic Centre was not available there are other venues in the Town that would have been more suitable.

Naturally, ARAG will continue to report factual information, as it becomes available, and can only hope that the Town Council have learned an important lesson, as a result of this apparent lack of foresight.

Tomorrow we will publish a report of the meeting and its outcomes.

Michael Jones at Town Council meeting

COME & QUESTION MICHAEL JONES

Alsager’s Town Clerk has told ARAG that local residents will be allowed to ask questions of Cheshire East Council Leader, Michael Jones, during a specially extended Public Participation Period at the Town Council Planning Committee at 7.00 pm tonight (Tuesday)

The meeting will take place at the Alsager Institute on Green Drive, which is off Sandbach Road North, a couple of hundred yards from Bank Corner.

This is an opportunity to put your questions and concerns to the man in charge of the Council and the development of its Local Plan; which proposes massive growth in housing numbers for our community.  Even his pre-submission Local Plan proposes an increase of 35% in the size of our town; but at last weeks Strategic Planning Board one of his most senior officers admitted that if the applications to build on our green fields get through that figure will increase to 50%.

Come along and use this opportunity to tell him what you think of his ideas.

MICHAEL JONES coming to ALSAGER

Cheshire East Council Leader to attend Town Council Planning Committee

ARAG has learned that that Councillor Michael E Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, will attend the Town Council’s Planning Committee meeting on 14th January 2014. The meeting will be held at the Alsager Institute on Green Drive (off Sandbach Road North) at 7.00 pm 

Alsager residents have repeatedly expressed considerable concern and anger, at the number of proposed and speculative developments in the town and the increased housing allocations for Alsager in Cheshire East’s Local Plan Pre-Submission Core Strategy document.

Michael Jones; attendance should give residents the opportunity to hear his views on some of these issues and because we are constantly hearing from our members that they believe ‘Alsager is being dumped upon’, we expect many of you will wish to be present to hear exactly what the Council Leader has to say.

In our last Post we reported that one of Cheshire East’s senior officers, at the Strategic Planning Board, had calculated a figure of 2600 additional houses for Alsager and a growth of 50% in the size of our town.

Please try to attend so that Michael Jones begins to understand ‘that we know what is going on’ and that he is left in no doubt about the level of resentment felt by Alsager’s residents, over plans to wreck the character of our town by increasing housing by 50%.

DON’T LEAVE IT TO OTHERS, THEY MAY BE LEAVING IT TO YOU.

Dunnocksfold Road decision deferred.

DUNNOCKSFOLD ROAD PLANNING DECISION DEFERRED.

At Wednesday’s Strategic Planning Board any decision on the Dunnocksfold Road application was deferred to allow more information to be brought forward about the highway problems associated with the junction of Hassall Road with Crewe Road and Chancery Lane.

A very big thank you for the tremendous turnout by local residents who attended the meeting and showed fantastic support.

Very effective presentations were made by your ARAG team and by Councillors Derek Longhurst and Rod Fletcher which covered the whole wide range of objections. Councillor David Brickhill, a member deputising for a normal Board member, made a truly magnificent contribution when he insisted that council officers provided detailed numbers of the proposed housing in Alsager and what percentage of the current number of houses this would be.

Although some of the officers and the Chairman attempted to prevent this, by claiming that the figures were not readily available, Councillor Brickhill persisted and senior officer Mr Adrian Fisher offered to provided an answer if given a short period of time. David Brickhill’s persistence paid off when Mr Fisher admitted that his total figure was 2600 which was equivalent to a 50% increase in the size of the town. This caused a sharp intake of breath for many Board members and one of them immediately said that it was a ridiculous to suggest that a town the size of Alsager should be expected increase by that amount.

Councillor Derek Hough raised the issue of Highway problems and pointed out that an assessment of traffic impact on the junction of Hassall Road with Crewe Road and Chancery Lane, was not included in the Highways Assessment for the proposed development. The Highways officer was reminded that Hall Drive (109 houses) and Hassall Road (30 houses) had now been approved and was questioned whether it was even possible to carry out the required improvements to this junction. The officer could not provide a satisfactory response.

The members of the Strategic Planning Board voted to defer any decision until answers were provided to these questions. The next scheduled meeting of the Strategic Planning Board is on 5th February 2014 and the Appeal for the first Dunnocksfold Road application is set for 11th February 2014.

Fiona Bruce MP sent a very strongly worded letter, to Cheshire East, supporting ARAG’s Alternative Report and her letter can be seen here

Dunnocksfold Road – Decision Meeting

Dunnocksfold Road

There will be a meeting of the Strategic Planning Board (SPB) on Wednesday 8/1/2014 at 10.30, when the new Dunnocksfold Road planning proposal ( 13/4627C ) for 95 houses will be decided.

This new proposal was submitted by the developer, even though an existing proposal had already been rejected and was under appeal.  This tactic was also used on the recently accepted Hall Drive proposal.

It is very disappointing, though not surprising given recent behaviour, that the Cheshire East planning department recommends acceptance of the proposal in its report.

This situation was announced very close to Christmas which left little time to prepare an ARAG response.  After a lot of work over the break, a response has been produced and you can read the Executive Summary here and the main body of the report here.

On close examination of the Cheshire East report; it became clear that the conclusions and the recommendation of approval were inconsistent, with the body of the report, and there were also significant omissions from the report.  The work carried out by ARAG has been to take the Cheshire East Officer report, and produce an ARAG alternative version which in our view gives a compelling case to reject the proposal.  

ARAG considers that current planning decisions are not being taken on rational planning grounds and that the planning process is now being driven purely by Politics.  The arguments presented for rejection of the proposal are very strong, and consistent with recent appeal decisions.  This site is also not part of the Cheshire East emerging Local Plan or our Town Plan, in fact it was specifically rejected in the Town Plan.  

Alsager has already received planning permission for well over 50% of its 20 year quota ( in the first 3 years ) with the remainder already committed through development of our Brownfield sites ( MMU and Cardway Cartons).

Despite strong objections from Fiona Bruce MP , the Town Council, ARAG and many residents, Cheshire East is promoting development on the White Moss and appears very reluctant to provide any protection from speculative development elsewhere in Alsager.  This will mean over 3,000 houses in Alsager, a growth in excess of 60% . Our existing infrastructure simply cannot support this kind of growth.

ARAG and others will present the case against the proposal at the SPB meeting, we would ask:

  • that as many people as possible attend the SPB meeting at the Town Hall in Crewe at 10.30. ( we are agenda item 6, Congleton has item 7 and a similar case to argue ).  Please be present to demonstrate the strength of feeling in our Community.

  • that as many people as possible e-mail and express their strength of feeling to the leader of Cheshire East Michael Jones, his Deputy, David Brown, our MP Fiona Bruce and the chairman of the Alsager Planning committee.  Their e-mail addresses are:

Donations for Impact Survey

Donations for Impact Survey

The ARAG Committee would like to thank all members who have contributed towards the cost of the Impact Survey.  We are well on the way to the amount needed to fund the first stage of this very important project but any further contributions would be gratefully received.  Details of the results of the project, donations and expenditure will be published at a later date.

The information about how to make a donation can be found here.

As this is our first post of 2014 we would like to wish all our members a Happy New Year.

IMPACT SURVEY

Impact Survey by ARAG

It is now clear that Alsager Town Council is not going to support an Impact Survey to provide the professional evidence needed to allow us to challenge developers’ speculative planning applications.

At a Town Council Planning Committee meeting, in the Civic Hall, Fiona Bruce MP said that it was essential to have professional evidence when she meets with Ministers or she would fighting without any ammunition. She made it very clear that she is already doing everything possible, at Westminster, to support Alsager’s residents and asked the Town Council to reconsider their decision, but was ignored.

Because of our members overwhelming reaction, to the Town Council’s refusal to protect our community, we feel that we can wait no longer and have little option but to take action ourselves. ARAG have therefore met with consultants who will be producing a professional Traffic Survey as quickly as possible; but obviously not over the Christmas and New Year period. The survey will be carried out in two stages, in order to speed up the reports for those application sites which are most imminent and can be extended to cover the whole of Alsager when necessary.

We have already received a number of offers of financial contributions but would ask if our members could help towards the cost of this essential survey. Eventually we would hope to have surveys produced to cover Noise and Air Pollution but this will depend on cost and level of support.

If you wish to make a contribution, you can do so by e-mailing ARAG for account details.  Email Alsager Action

Alternatively, you can send a cheque (made out to Alsager Residents Action Group) to the the ARAG treasurer:

Robin Peake ( ARAG Treasurer) 
76 Dunnocksfold Road 
Alsager ST7 2TW

Cresswellshawe Farm

 Willow House - Cresswellshawe Farm – Planning reference 13/4582C. 

An application has been received for the above location which would allow conversion of existing office facilities to domestic premises.

It has recently been stated at the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board that the Sandbach Road North appeal decision, in favour of Cheshire East Council, will be the subject of judicial review.

Although Alsager Town Council has raised ‘No Objection’ it would seem that allowing a change of use, on this site, to residential would not be appropriate and would play into the hands of the Developers. It would in ARAG’s view compromise Cheshire East’s hard won case.

This site by definition is in open countryside and residential use or development is not appropriate.

You can view the application here

Although the ‘Last Date For Submitting Comments’ has already passed it is still possible to submit your objections by e-mail to the case officer:

FAO Richard Kilbourne planning@cheshireeast.gov.uk quoting the application number.

Local Plan Objections, last chance

TODAY 16 DEC is the LAST CHANCE to comment on the Local Plan
The level of response on Alsager has been very low, for example, ONLY 10 comments have been submitted for White Moss Quarry and 5 for the MMU.
If this Local Plan goes forwards, it will guarantee at least 1,700 ( 3,000+ ) houses in Alsager and open the door to many more than that through its inconsistencies.  Furthermore, Education has been removed as an option for the MMU site and it is proposed that the top class Sports buidlings will eventually be demolished.
You can object here.
Go down to the section for White Moss Quarry or MMU and select ADD COMMENTS
Then insert a copy of your objection.
If the deadline has closed you may be able to send comments by email but this is not guaranteed

Hassall Road Appeal – result

Hassall Road Decision

Unfortunately, we have to report the bad news that the Hassall Road Appeal has been successful, which means that unless Cheshire East decides to fight the case and take it to judicial review, the Hassall Road site is now lost.

 In his report, which can be found here, the Inspector justified his decision with some key points:

  •  ”The National Planning Policy Framework (the NPP Framework)  advises that a lack of a demonstrable five-year supply of deliverable housing sites would mean that relevant policies in the local plan should not be considered up to date. Where relevant policies in the development plan are out of date, planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefit.” (6).  CheshireEast can not demonstrate a 5 year supply, so there is a presumption in favour of development,
  • The Alsager Town plan only identifies sites for 890 houses out of its 1,000 allocation and the Inspector decided that this was a justification to pass this proposal. (58). During the appeal, the Barrister representing the Developer pointed out that the Town Plan numbers don’t add up. 
  • The Town Plan records, that there is a need for an additional 36 affordable houses each year in Alsager (60) . As previously pointed out, this is a mistake in the Town plan, as 36 affordable houses per annum over the plan period would represent over 70 % of the houses to be built. The target is 30%. The Barrister representing the Developer successfully used this discrepancy to identify what she termed as pent-up demand in Alsager.

 ( (n) references the Inspector’s report )

 The obvious point from this decision is that if we as a Community are to defend Alsager, we need robust professional evidence. It is quite clear from the Inspector’s report that Cheshire East offered no defence base on Highways, Infrastructure, Environment or Services.

To use the language of the Inspector’s report,

 planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefit.

 If we can’t identify adverse impacts which demonstrably outweigh the benefit, we will lose most if not all of the sites.

Local Plan Consultation

This is probably the most important Cheshire East document Residents have had to consider, it will impact our future for the next 20 years.

The Local Plan Consultation ends on Monday 16th December 2013.

You can get background information here

A detailed analysis  of the Local Plan is available here.

You can read the objections to the plan so far and object yourself here.

In the section on Alsager, Cheshire East is proposing to raise the Alsager allocation from the 1,000 in the Town plan to 1,700.  As previously reported, because Cheshire East has not been able to deliver its Local Plan, it is now unable to succesfully fight off speculative Greenfield development and is now  passing proposals which have previously been rejected.  The Home Page of this web site indicates here  that for these reasons, we can expect more than 3,000 houses to be passed before the Local Plan is in place.  This is more than a 60% growth.

Cheshire East is also proposing the White Moss as a Strategic Location, a totally inappropriate location, which in itself supports the current planning application for 1,000 houses ( 300 more than stated in the Local Plan ).  By promoting the White Moss in its Local Plan, Cheshire East is demonstrating a range of inconsistencies between its own actions and its policies.  Developers and Barristers at appeals and judicial review will take advantage of this unjustified inconsistency.

You can view an analysis histogram of the allocation of housing across Cheshire East here.

All sorts of analysis can be carried out on these numbers but perhaps the most telling statistics are that Knutsford, Wilmslow and Poynton have an allocation of 1,250 dwellings, while Alsager, Sandbach and Congleton get 6,800.  Macclesfield gets 3,500, Crewe gets 6,850.

If this plan is accepted in its current form, the planned number for our area Crewe, Alsager, Sandbach and Congleton will be at least 13,650.  Considering the inability now for Cheshire East to fight off speculative development, this number is a significant underestimate.

The Local Plan will be very late but it is still the only protection available for Alsager.  It will govern developments in Alsager for the next 20 years, please make sure you have your say, this is the last chance on the Local Plan.

 

 

Hassall Road Re-submission and Close Lane

Re-submission Hassall Road and  Close Lane

Heath End Farm – Hassall Road

The proposal to build 34 houses on land adjacent to Heath End Farm was previously rejected by Cheshire East ( application 12/3905C ) but the developer has now re-submitted that application. The new application is reference number 13/5045C and you can read about it and raise objections here. The last date for raising objections is 2/1/2014. Please get your objections in as soon as possible.

Some of the main objections to this site are:

  • This Greenfield site was specifically considered and rejected in the Alsager Town Plan and it is not a part of the Cheshire East Emerging Local Plan. As the Cheshire East Local Plan intends to increase Alsager’s allocation by another 700 houses, and Alsager itself is acknowledged to be unsustainable anyhow, any additional housing would in itself be unsustainable.
  • This is an intrusion into open countryside and it would change the nature of the countryside as well as extending the settlement boundary and creating additional Greenfield infill sites.
  • The Inspector, when rejecting the Sandbach Road North site stated that “it would seem wise”, bearing in mind the matter of regeneration in neighbouring authorities, “in this part of the borough not to proceed with development which would go beyond the draft strategy at this stage”.
  • This part of Hassall Road is on an extremely dangerous corner
  • The site is opposite a busy entrance to Pikemere School
  • The site is subject to regular flooding.

Close Lane – 13/4150N

The end date for this planning proposal has been changed to cater for new information from the developer. Objections can now be submitted until 27/12/2013.

You can raise your objections here.

Recent Planning Decisions

Hall Drive and Rhodes Field.

The Strategic Planning Board met on Monday 9th December to consider two planning applications within Alsager. The two sites were Land South of Hall Drive and Land off Crewe Road (commonly known as Rhodes Field).

Sadly the Hall Drive ‘Outline’ planning application was Approved and the developer will be able to proceed with building 109 houses on this site, subject to detailed planning permission.

The Rhodes Field site decision was ‘Deferred’ because of a ‘Lack of Information’ and will be brought back to the Strategic Planning Board once this information has been gathered. Amongst the issues which need more information were Noise, Effects on Radway Manufacturing Capacity and the Electricity Pylon for example.

Dunnocksfold Road and Strategic Planning Board

Dunnocksfold Road.

We only have 11 days left to get our objections in for the Dunnocksfold Road application, described here.  So far the number of objections is a lot lower than the previous round.  This proposal is an example of a rejected proposal which the Developer appealed and before the appeal has taken place, the Developer has re-submitted the application. Cheshire East Planning Officers are currently recommending some re-submitted proposals for approval as you will see below.

Please submit your objections to this proposal here.  It is really important to get the objection level up.

Strategic Planning Board Monday – 9th Dec 2013

A Strategic Planning Board Meeting will take place on Monday 9th of December in Crewe at 10.30.  Two Alsager applications will be considered at that time:

  • Hall Drive
  • Rhodes Field

You can view the meeting details here.

Despite the level and quality of objection from Residents and the fact that the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board (SPB) has already rejected Hall Drive, Cheshire East Planning Officers are now recommending approval of these speculative proposals.  Residents can attend these meetings and it is possible to speak in limited time slots.  In the past, the SPB has rejected some applications which were recommended for approval by Officers.  It is to be hoped that the SPB will continue to support Alsager and the wishes expressed in the agreed Town Plan.

A large Alsager Resident turn-out at this meeting would demonstrate the strength of feeling in our Community.

It is clear that if we lose these two, the map on the Home Page of the website which predicts something of the order of a 60% growth in Alsager, becomes increasingly likely, especially with Cheshire East now promoting the White Moss in its Local Plan ( still open to objections ) while there is a current planning proposal ( also still open to objections ) .

Church Lawton – Rectory Farm

We have received the following notice from Church Lawton about the new planning application at Rectory Farm, Knutsford Road, Church Lawton. which you can see and comment on here.

 

We have been advised that Councillor Andrew Barratt has confirmed that none of the original objections to the earlier application will be carried forward. This ‘new’ one will be viewed in isolation.


Please send in your objections  – the final date for this is 18 December 2013.

Objections can be made by letter or on line at the Cheshire East Website.

Address for letters is
Development Management – For the attention of Mr Robert Law
PO Box 606
Municipal Buildings
Crewe
Cheshire
CW1 9HP

Application  number: 13/4617C
New Residential development and access roads for up to 31 dwellings
Location: Rectory Farm, Old Knutsford Road, Church Lawton, ST7 3EQ

Please help to stop this development – developer already has permission to build 9 dwellings – it could mean that can build 40 new houses.

Cheshire East Local Plan

ARAG has carried out an analysis of the Cheshire East Local Plan and in particular the impact it could have on Alsager.  The aim of this document is to provide Residents with evidence for their objections and it summarises the key developments scheduled in the Core Strategy for Alsager as well as analysing the supporting documentation cited by Cheshire East Council.

  • The Infrastructure Delivery Plan
  • The Economic Viability of Affordable Housing Requirements
Although the document stretches to 11 pages, we would encourage Residents to read it as it provides an overview of some very significant issues and explores questions which need to be raised with Cheshire East Council.
We hope you will find this document useful and we would welcome any feedback, questions or requests for clarification.  You can read the document here.
It is very important to make sure that as a Community we register our opinions on this Local Plan, as it will determine the impact our Town for the next 20 years.  You can see an overview of Local Plan objections and how to object here.

Environment / Infrastructure Impact Assessment

You will recall that 7 weeks ago, we proposed to the Town Council that it considered undertaking a professional environment and infrastructure assessment of Alsager.  This is particularly important when you consider our proximity to the M6 and the effect of increased emissions, which we know will impact us and future residents on a daily basis.

We also requested that the Town Council pursued trying to develop a strong contact with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Newcastle Borough Council regarding their views on this area being considered as an area of restraint, relating to the re-generation of Stoke and Newcastle.

You will recall that Councillor Derek Longhurst made a formal request to consider these proposals at a Town Council Meeting.

It is now well documented that in our opinion at the Town Council meeting held 13/11/2013 at 16.00, where the Town Council rejected this proposal, the public was given information which we consider to be quite misleading, regarding costs, the impact on ratepayers and whether or not this was an appropriate use of public money.

You will be aware of the overwhelming response we have received concerning this decision and in particular the view expressed by Fiona Bruce ( Our MP ), who wholeheartedly supported this proposal.

We need to inform you that we have made a further attempt to get the Town Council to reconsider this decision.  The Town Council has now stated that it can not re-consider the matter for another 6 months.  It is clear that the Town Council could reconsider this matter if the will existed to do so.  This is the very kind of evidence that we need to take to appeals, fight speculative proposals and to embed in any future response which we wish to make regarding the development of Cheshire East’s Local Plan.

Unfortunately now, we seem to have difficulties emanating from 4 sources.

  1. National Government and the imposition and harsh implementation of the NPPF.
  2. The policies regarding Alsager which are being developed by Cheshire East in its Local plan, which conflict with the expressed views of the Community.  We are becoming a dumping ground for housing.  Our Alsager assets are being systematically stripped.
  3. The rapacious attitude of Developers who see Alsager as an easy target.
  4. The seeming lack of effective support we are experiencing from our own Town Council, the very people who have been elected to represent us.

We would propose that you contact your Cheshire East Councillors, all of whom sit on the Town Council and make strong representation for them to re-consider their position and to explain their reluctance to engage in what Residents feel is a valuable contribution and totally appropriate use of ratepayers’ money.

We must impress on you, we are running out of time.

The Cheshire East Councillors are:

Councillor Mrs T E S Jones 10 Fairview Avenue, Alsager, ST7 2NW. 01270 874854

Councillor R Fletcher 5 Cranfield Drive, Alsager, ST7 2LQ. 01270 874578

Councillor D I Hough 61 Pikemere Road, Alsager, ST7 2SN. 01270 875144

You may wish to e-mail their responses to us.

Dunnocksfold Road Objections

The number of objections to the Dunnocksfold Road Planning proposal is rising slowly, we need as many as possible, we have until 11/12/2013.  Please get your objections in and let Cheshire East know that:

  • We don’t want speculative development on our Greenfield sites
  • Alsager Residents rejected this site in the Alsager Town Plan and it isn’t a site in the emerging Cheshire East Local Plan.  It should not therefore be considered
  • We strongly object to developers ignoring Cheshire East Decisions and undermining the appeals process in this way.  Cheshire East has already rejected this application and the developer is appealing that decision.  The developer has decided to apply more pressure on the system and Residents by applying yet again for the same site.  We can push back against this kind of behaviour by maximising our objections.

Some suggested points for objection are also provided below.  You can place your objection and view other objections ( click on the application number column )  and the planning application  itself here on the Cheshire East website.

 

Please get your objections in. 

Some suggested objection points are:

  • This site is not included in the Alsager Town Plan or the Cheshire East Emerging Local Plan.  Cheshire East has rejected it before and will defend its correct decision at appeal.  This  application should therefore be robustly rejected.
  • This proposal for developing a greenfield site would be an intrusion into open countryside. It is outside the settlement boundary.
  • The proposal would cause significant harm to the natural environment, and would use best and most valuable agricultural land ( DEFRA’s assessment should be used, not the developer’s).
  • Alsager does not have a large employment base, and building on the site would encourage out-commuting to adjacent areas.
  • In the Sandbach Road North appeal, when commenting on the fact that Alsager is an area of restraint to support Potteries regeneration, the Inspector said : “it would seem wise, in this part of the Borough, not to proceed with development which would go beyond the draft strategy at this stage.”
  • The Hedgerow marks a boundary which has existed since at least the 1850s, as shown on the Tythe maps and the proposal is to remove the 100m hedgerow.
  • The fact that the owner has recently neglected the land and hedgerow following on from years of productive use, should count against this proposal rather than for it.
  • Dunnocksfold Road is a dangerous road with no footpath on one side. It is a rat run through Close Lane, it is dangerous and it is used by school children on the way to school. It can take no more traffic.
  • Bringing more traffic onto Dunnocksfold Road, where currently the residents have a reasonable amount of privacy at the access point is a significant intrusion and deterioration in quality of life.

White Moss Quarry – Sunday Working

Two planning applications, 13/4683W and 13/4685W, has been submitted for the White Moss Quarry to allow plant maintenance 07.30 – 18.00 on Sundays for both aggregate re-cycling and working sand and peat..

Residents along Close Lane, who are subjected to noise, traffic  and dust during the week and who report regular violations of planning conditions anyhow, are strongly against this.  Please support the Close Lane campaign to keep Sunday as a day of rest.

To quote one objection:

please allow us 1 day a week of quiet, 6 days a week of noise and dust is
already too much, and like previous comments, there are operations going on well
outside the permitted times, as early as 6am and we have actually heard tipping and
other noises as late as 1am on occasion. this should not be allowed.

You can place your objections to these two applications  here.  and here We have until 11/12/2013 to object.

ARAG Feedback – Town Council Meeting and Twyfords

Following our previous post on the Town Council meeting- of 13/11/2013, ARAG has received a tremendous response from residents on two main points.

 Twyfords – Sainsburys Food Retail Store

ARAG’s role is to reflect Residents’ opinion. A significant number of Residents have commented favourably on this proposal. The positive points being made by Residents are:

  • It will attract shoppers into Alsager and keep shoppers in Alsager, particularly for the “big shop” where currently, many people travel some distance to surrounding large stores.
  • Many people in Alsager would be able to walk to this location.
  • It will deliver a petrol station to Alsager with reasonable petrol prices.
  • As more people will be attracted to shop in Alsager, it will be good for the Town Centre and particularly the specialist shops.
  • Competition is a healthy thing.
  • It is situated adjacent to our only main road.
  • It will create new jobs in Alsager.

Highways is an issue which has been raised by a number of residents but we have been given assurances from the Sainsburys design team that this can be overcome and easily resolved.

If you want a Sainsburys in Alsager, it is essential to make your voice heard. The number of people in support of the application is an important consideration which must be taken into account by the Planning Authority. It won’t just happen, people need to make their views known. A simple e-mail saying you are in favour of it is enough to demonstrate support. Don’t leave it to someone else they might be leaving it to you.

E-mail daniel.evans@cheshireeast.gov.uk at the earliest opportunity. Quote the planning reference number 13/4121C and provide your name and address.

Alsager Infrastructure Impact Assessment / Town Council Meeting 13/11/2013

ARAG has received substantial feedback following the recent Council meeting which has also been fully reported in the local newspapers. Councillor Longhurst and Residents requested support from the Town Council for an Infrastructure Impact Assessment, so that our Community would have a sound, professionally produced piece of evidence to fight off speculative development proposals.

The Town Council voted to take no action. Councillor Warren Stevenson stated that he didn’t want to be involved with a “head on attack on Cheshire East Planning Officers” and that he was “of the opinion it would be improper use of public funds”. Councillor Fletcher said that the response of Planning Officers has to be in line with planning guidance from Whitehall.

Our MP Fiona Bruce said after the meeting that she was “appalled by the vote to take no action, especially given the current planning situation, which will impact the Town for decades to come”. Fiona Bruce also said that her job was to fight for the people of Alsager and she will take that fight to Westminster, Westfields and anywhere else but she “can’t fight without ammunition”. “Without the facts, figures and forensic empirical evidence that the infrastructure impact study could provide”, she is “left fighting with one hand tied behind her back”.

Residents have summed this up better than we can. “There appears to a total disconnect between the Community and its Town Council. They are fiddling while Rome burns.”

The specious arguments being presented by our Town Councillors can stand no scrutiny. This is not an attack on Officers, it is a defence of our Town, which is wanted by the Community and our MP. Unlike Alsager, Congleton did support a public meeting which was attended by Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East. The minutes of that meeting state:

“…When members of the audience commented that CE Officers did not seem to be putting much effort in considering well thought out objections or questioning poor quality evidence in developer applications he advised that a lack of resource was the problem; including developers offering large fees to the best planning consultants, which CE could not afford…”

“…what Cllr Jones seemed to be saying, the CEC planning officers are no match for the Civil Engineers and other professionals working for the big development companies. CEC needs to get these Civil Servants back in place urgently…”

Far from Councillor Stevens suggestion, it seems that in this case, Michael Jones is making the case for professional support.

As for misuse of public money, it might be worthwhile publicising where all of this money is being spent and people can judge for themselves. After all, what is more important to the ratepayers of Alsager: fences on the allotments, hanging baskets, unjustified over-staffing or defending our town from rapacious developers? Mr Fitton objected to this proposal using a figure of £10,000. He said this would mean an increase in the Town Council precept of £2.40 to be levied on each household. We would make 2 points concerning this.

  1. The costings we have received on this are nowhere near £10,000 but regardless of this Mr Fitton did not inform the meeting of the incredible financial Reserves which are included within the Alsager TC budget. We believethe total of these reserves to be in excess of £270,000 with over £60,000 simply identified as General Reserves.
  2. He also made no effort to inform the meeting of the considerable amounts which Alsager has received this year as windfalls
  3. Alsager officers and elected members do seem to suffer from selective memory loss when appropriate to suit their own particular ends.

Dismissing this proposal without even discussing or establishing benefits and costs, demonstrates a clear lack of vision and willingness to support this Infrastructure Assessment which our Community so obviously needs.

Fiona Bruce raised the unacceptable situation facing Alsager Community in the parliamentary debate on housing, following discussions with and contributions from ARAG. Following this, Fiona Bruce, our representative, then made the effort to attend the Alsager Town Council meeting to hear that our Town Council would not even consider supporting a vital piece of empirical evidence which she stated, in addressing the meeting, she could use both at Westminster and with CE Officers and senior members.

This demonstration, in front of our MP, of total lack of any vision and perverse decision making, perhaps gives a clue to why we are the dumping ground for housing in South Cheshire.

It was an embarassment to all of the people who were present.

 

If you feel strongly about this situation, please e-mail us at

contact@alsageraction.org.uk

We will make sure that your concerns are adequately voiced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town Council Meeting – Wednesday 13/11/2013

Town Council Meeting – Wednesday 13/11/2013.

The Town Council Planning and Community Services Committee Meeting was held in the Civic from 16.00 to 18.30. The meeting was well attended and also our MP Fiona Bruce attended, to listen to the discussions and to express her support and concern about the uncontrolled surge of planning applications in Alsager.

A number of important issues were discussed and the Town Council made a number of decisions and “decisions not to decide”.

 1. Public Participation: Call For A Public Meeting

Chris Venables, an Alsager Resident, formally asked the Alsager Town Councillors to call an urgent Public Meeting to which Mr Michael Jones – Leader of Cheshire East Council and Mr Adrian Fisher – Chief Planning Officer CEC would be invited to attend.  This would be to  take questions about the lack of an appropriate Housing Development Plan  and to address the concerns of residents about the housing situation and lack of protection from speculative development in Alsager. This proposal was robustly applauded by the audience

Town Council Response.

The Town Council doesn’t feel that it is its duty to call public meetings to discuss such situations. Subsequently, it was agreed that the Town Council would ask Cheshire East if it wanted to call and organise a public meeting, rather than Alsager Town Council taking the initiative. This decision was taken in the knowledge that such a Public meeting was recently held in Congleton.

ARAG View.

This is a very weak response from the Town Council. It should be providing leadership and direction to improve the situation and support Residents, not avoiding conflict and extra work.

2. Infrastructure Impact Assessment.

This agenda item was proposed by Councillor Longhurst, as well as Residents. The background is that Cheshire East Highways does not provide Highway surveys which reflect any reality being experienced by Residents and the Highways reports by Developers are normally accepted by Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board. The developers are clearly very well funded and the defence mounted by the Alsager Community, although strong and well thought out, is produced by planning amateurs. If we are to defend these planning proposals, we need professional support, and to do it properly, this would mean carrying out a Highways, infrastructure and environment survey using professional consultants.

Town Council Response

The Town Council considers itself an advisory body to Cheshire East and as such did not feel it could support such a call from the Community for a professional assessment. The arguments were feeble but this was the decision. The Town Council do not consider it appropriate to undertake such a proposal and therefore not a proper use for public funds. Fiona Bruce talked at this point and stated that she wanted to do everything she could to support Alsager but she needed ammunition to take it to the highest levels in Westminster. She urged the Town Council to reconsider its decision and explained why such information would be so important.  

Fiona Bruce was thanked by a member of the public for her considerable efforts on Alsager’s behalf and taking the trouble and extraordinary step to come from Westminster and attend the meeting. 

ARAG View.

ARAG views this as an abdication of responsibility. Here is a Community led proposal to do something constructive about the planning situation in Alsager. We know that we need site specific objections and a strong argument to fend of speculative development. The Town Council was asked to support such an initiative, and in a situation where, considering current spending, there is clearly an excess of funds, the Town Council refused to engage. We understand that a basic Traffic Survey could be undertaken for £2000+ which seems to be well within the capacity of the Town Council who have  awarded £5000 for the replacement of fencing for Alsager Gardener’s Association and £30,000 for further improvements to the Civic (over and above the £81,000 already allocated for improvements to this building in this financial year)

3. Twyfords – Sainsburys.

Representations were made by the Chamber of Commerce which objected to this application but all other speakers in the audience were in favour. The general consensus appears to be that competition would be good for the Town Centre, a petrol station on the site would be good for Alsager and that having an Alsager location where people could do the “big shop” would keep people in Alsager rather than at present,where the Town Centre is abandoned in favour of Kidsgrove, Sandbach Crewe or Nantwich.

Town Council Response

The Town Council’s position is that of no objections.

 ARAG View

The support demonstrated in the meeting reflects the considerable feedback we have received from residents for this proposal. We will post on this separately in the near future. Unless there is clear support from the Community, this proposal is at risk. Residents should consider whether or not they want this facility in Alsager and if so register their support. The planning application is 13/4121C here

 You can also e-mail daniel.evans@cheshireeast.gov.uk, the case officer at Cheshire East, even though the deadline has passed. The volume of messages is very important and even a simple ‘ I support this proposal’ is important.

Objections: Dunnocksfold Road and the Local Plan.

Objections

In recent weeks, we have had a lot of speculative planning proposals  to resist and we have  done well to achieve  consistently significant numbers of objections.  Please stick with it, as far as we know, this is the last call for objections before Christmas and it is very important that we don’t flag now and that we let Cheshire East know we don’t want our Town to be inundated with speculative housing development.

The two remaining areas for objection are the Dunnocksfold Road planning proposal and the Cheshire East Local Plan.

Cheshire East Local Plan.

A dedicated page has been produced on the web site to cover the Local plan and how to object.  You can view it here.  So far there have been very few objections.  If we don’t object, Cheshire East will implement the current document.  In ARAG’s view this would seriously damage Alsager.  Please take the time to object to the changes Cheshire East are proposing, which are: 

  • Increasing the housing allocation from 1,000 to at least 1,700 ( expect 2,700 if this is accepted )
  • Accepting the White Moss as an additional strategic location, ignoring the objections of the Community and the Town Council, as well as undermining their own policies and defence arguments at the appeals.
  • Increasing the MMU housing allocation to 350, demolishing the excellent publicly funded Sports Buildings and providing equivalent services to Alsager but from Crewe
Please go here to object.

Dunnocksfold Road.

A planning application for Dunnocksfold Road ( 12/4146C ) was correctly rejected by Cheshire East but the developer appealed that decision.  That appeal  has not yet been scheduled but the developer has cynically submitted another planning proposal.  This tactic has been adopted elsewhere but please submit objections, we have until 11/12/2013. Lets get as many objections in as possible and demonstrate that we don’t like being pressured in this way by developers .

The planning application is 13/4627C

It can be viewed here and objections made.

Some suggested objection points are:

  • This site is not included in the Alsager Town Plan or the Cheshire East Emerging Local Plan.  Cheshire East has rejected it before and will defend its correct decision at appeal.  This  application should therefore be robustly rejected.
  • This proposal for developing a greenfield site would be an intrusion into open countryside. It is outside the settlement boundary.
  • The proposal would cause significant harm to the natural environment, and would use best and most valuable agricultural land ( DEFRA’s assessment should be used, not the developer’s).
  • Alsager does not have a large employment base, and building on the site would encourage out commuting to adjacent areas. 
  • In the Sandbach Road North appeal, when commenting on the fact that Alsager is an area of restraint to support Potteries regeneration, the Inspector said : “it would seem wise, in this part of the Borough, not to proceed with development which would go beyond the draft strategy at this stage.”
  • The Hedgerow marks a boundary which has existed since at least the 1850s, as shown on the Tythe maps and the proposal is to remove the 100m hedgerow.
  • The fact that the owner has recently neglected the land and hedgerow following on from years of productive use, should count against this proposal rather than for it.
  • Dunnocksfold Road is a dangerous road with no footpath on one side. It is a rat run through Close Lane, it is dangerous and it is used by school children on the way to school. It can take no more traffic.
  • Bringing more traffic onto Dunnocksfold Road, where currently the residents have a reasonable amount of privacy at the access point is a significant intrusion and deterioration in quality of life.

WHITE MOSS MISINFORMATION

There is evidence that residents have been misinformed about the White Moss development proposal and have been led to believe that the WM development will replace existing proposals for MMU etc. or will mean that other Greenfield site applications are rejected.

This is definitely not so.

Cheshire East Council has made it absolutely clear that White Moss development will be additional to other proposals and applications.

 

  • If the 1000 houses at White Moss are approved; it will mean that Alsager gets at least 2100 houses.
  • If the current Greenfield applications and Appeals are successful (because Cheshire East no longer has a 5 year supply of house building land) we could finish up with 3000 extra houses.
  • This would mean a 60% increase in the size of our town and will transform Alsager from a Market Town into a dormitory commuter Town off the M6.
  • The Cheshire East Pre-Submission Core Strategy, recently published, argues that one strategic priority is to preserve the character of the borough’s market towns and that another is to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • The document also admits that Junctions 16-18 are already operating over capacity to such an extent that the hard shoulders are to be used as running lanes.
  • Alsager is the closest community to this congested section of the M6. Considering all of the other sites to be developed or which are subject to Developers’ Appeals – how does this proposal, to add a further thousand houses with all the traffic and carbon emissions that will be generated, fulfil the strategic priorities of the Local Plan?

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR OBJECTIONS TO THIS OUTRAGOUS PROPOSAL

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

 

The deadline for your comments is next Wednesday, 20th November 2013, so we are almost out of time.

URGENT – White Moss Action Needed

White Moss Action Needed

We have produced a very important flyer about the White Moss, please read it here, make sure you object before the deadline (20/11/2013 ), print it off and circulate to friends and neighbours.  We must make sure the objections represent the views of our Community, not outside influences. Your support is urgently needed.

The deadline for White Moss Objections is Wednesday 20th November 2013.  So far the number of comments is low ( 79 ) and a significant number of these are from surrounding places with their own opinions and influences rather than the more relevant views of Alsager residents. We need to make sure that Alsager’s voice is heard.  This proposal is a huge threat to Alsager.

If, despite all the compelling arguments against,  Cheshire East pass the White Moss planning application, it will double Alsager’s housing allocation and open the door to an additional 3,000 houses in Alsager, a 60% growth.

You will already have seen the road chaos caused by the relatively small Crewe Road development.  Developing on the White Moss would guarantee that kind of disruption for many years.  Our infrastructure simply can’t take it.

You can help to shape Alsager’s future, it certainly needs your support:

  • Please object to the White Moss Quarry planning application 13/4132N here.
  • Read the flyer here.  Print off a few copies and circulate to your friends and neighbours.
  • The flyer contains some objections, you can see others here.
  • Copy this e-mail to all of your local friends and neighbours, encourage them to object.

If you want to stop this undemocratic, unjustified, unwanted, damaging development, please object, we only have 5 days left.

Raising Objections – some points.

ARAG members have often said that their objections are not getting through on the Cheshire East Website.  The main issue is that when the submit button is pressed, nothing happens.  This is usually because a mandatory field ( marked with red asterisk ) has not been entered.  In this case, the web site doesn’t tell you, it just refuses to do anything.  The most often missed field is “General Comments”.  If you don’t have any, still enter a No.

If this doesn’t work, you can e-mail your objection to planning@cheshireeast.gov.uk.

Say why your are submitting by e-mail, quote the planning reference number, your name, status ( Resident / neighbour ) address and post code + of course your objection.

Planning Proposals – Objections.

Objections to Planning Proposals

Alsager Residents are now faced with an increasing number of speculative Housing Development proposals.

Even when Cheshire East has rejected a proposal, developers are appealing those decisions and also re-submitting proposals. This has now happened  3 times to: Hall Drive, Close Lane and Dunnocksfold Road.  The White Moss proposal for 1,000 houses has also been submitted even though Residents are currently considering whether or not the White Moss should be allowed as a Strategic Location through Cheshire East’s consultation process.

With so much going on, it would be very easy to miss the objection deadline for a particular proposal and it is extremely important to demonstrate that the Alsager Community does not want the level of development which Developers are trying to impose on us.  Please support  Alsager residents from all areas by registering your objections

The following list shows the outstanding planning proposals, their deadlines and where to object.  Please add your voice to the objections and encourage your friends and neighbours  to voice their opinions as well, perhaps you could forward this post to them.

We object to any proposal which is not a part of the Town Plan.

Hall Drive

This planning application was rejected, an appeal is imminent but the developer has re-submitted the application, please object urgently, only 2 days to go.

 

Planning reference 13/4092C
 Objections HERE
 Objections End  15-Nov-2013

Close Lane

This planning application was rejected, an appeal is imminent but the developer has re-submitted the application, please object urgently.  The deadline has been extended because details have been corrected on: Illustrative Masterplan – relocated access, Planning and Sustainability Statement addendum, Sustainability Assessment, Transport Assessment & Highways improvement drawing, Travel Plan.

 

Planning reference 13/4150N
 Objections HERE
 Objections End  22-Nov-2013

White Moss

This planning application has been submitted while it is being considered through public consultation.  It is premature and would double Alsager’s housing allocation.  This proposal would cause serious damage to Alsager and some reasons for that can be found here. Please object urgently.

 

Planning reference 13/4132N
 Objections HERE
 Objections End  20-Nov-2013

Dunnocksfold Road

This new planning application was previously rejected, an appeal is imminent but the developer has again re-submitted the application, please object urgently.

 

Planning reference 13/4627C
 Objections HERE
 Objections End  11-Dec-2013

White Moss Planning Proposal – Objections Please

White Moss Planning Proposal – Objections.

As previously posted, there is now a planning proposal for the White Moss.  If this is passed, in our view, it will cause serious long-term damage to the Alsager Community.  Some background to the White Moss can be found here.

The information referenced above will be updated in the coming weeks.

The planning reference number is 13/4132N and you can place objections here

This application, if passed, would dramatically change the nature of our Community for the worse.

Please make sure that you object in the strongest possible terms, please engage with your neighbours and friends and do everything you can to make sure that the voice of our Community is heard.

If you can, please attend the Town Council meeting on Wednesday 13th November to hear the debate, make your views known and support the Alsager Community

Objections

The list below outlines some of the possible objections to housing development on the White Moss.  These are objections to both the planning proposal and to Cheshire East including the White Moss as a Strategic Location in its Local Plan.  This list will be improved and updated in the coming weeks.  Please get your objections in.

You can also view the most up to date objections list here.

  • A part of this site, the Triangle Field, is the subject of an Ombudsman’s investigation into maladministration. The 11 counts of Cheshire East administrative maladministration identified by the Ombudsman contributed to their “flawed decision” to issue a Certificate of Lawful Established Use or Development (CLEUD). The field in question is also Greenfield, in open countryside, beyond the settlement boundary.
  • Cheshire East, in its draft Local Plan, has attempted to define this location as a new settlement. This is nonsense,  it is is simply urban sprawl, an extension of Alsager’s Settlement boundary. This application is premature to the Cheshire East Local Plan and it would double Alsager’s housing allocation, with no justification.
  • Cheshire East has a duty to co-operate with neighbouring Councils. Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme Councils have strong reservations associated with development in Alsager and have already stated their objections to developments on the White Moss site. Alsager is an area of restraint and at the recent Sandbach Road North Appeal, Philip Major (the Inspector) determined that “it would seem wise in this part of the borough not to proceed with development”. The introduction of this site into the Local Plan by Cheshire East Council indicates that our elected representatives on the Council have refused to listen to either the community in Alsager or the Inspectorate.
  • In the recent appeals, Cheshire East has argued successfully that Alsager itself is not sustainable as a Key Service Centre, that the settlement Zone Lines must not be violated and that intrusion into and harm to the countryside is so significant that such development cannot be allowed. The White Moss is also an environmentally sensitive area. It is adjacent to a protected RAMSAR site, which would be threatened by this proposed development.  Accepting the White Moss proposal would:


    • Double Alsager’s housing allocation
    • Violate the Settlement Zone Lines
    • Ignore the objections of neighbouring councils
    • Intrude into open countryside
    • Damage the nature of the surrounding countryside

 

  • The White Moss Quarry is subject to an agreed and legally-binding Restoration Plan which would restore the area according to the plan which is to create a Nature Reserve in an environmentally sensitive area and provide valuable recreational facilities for the Community. This formal commitment must be enforced by Cheshire East, and this valuable community asset should not be destroyed.
  • The White Moss Quarry site, a significant part of this proposed location, is subject to licence agreements and planning conditions. Over many years, Residents have reported violations of planning conditions at White Moss Quarry which have either not been enforced or have been changed, sometimes without any consultation, to the detriment of the Community. Quite apart from the obvious destruction of Greenfields, prime agricultural land, the White Moss Nature Reserve and recreational amenities, accepting this proposal would effectively ‘absolve’ the Quarry owner of all these issues and responsibilities. There will also be serious ramifications on the Ramsar site at Oakhanger Moss. It would further create infill and positively promote further building in that area.
  • The White Moss is adjacent to the M6. The noise levels from the Motorway obviously vary depending on the ambient weather conditions. Planning Policy Guideline 24 identifies sites at different Categories of noise level. Category D includes all noise levels above 72dB. At this level, planning permission should be refused. Noise measurement in the area of the White Moss – and indeed measurement even further away – regularly exceeds 72dB. Confirmation of these noise levels can be found in the White Moss Quarry Vibrock report R12.7189/WM/2/GS. There is little doubt given the proximity of the motorway to this site that a background level of 72dB will be exceeded on a regular basis. Some simple tests carried out by Residents have also shown this to be true.
  • National standards exist for NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) and particulate pollution. There has been no measurement of NO2 on an hourly level or particulate pollution in the neighbourhood of the White Moss to prove whether or not this site is safe. Modelling and expert opinion is inadequate. Accurate measurements must be taken over an adequate period to prove that this site is safe and that Cheshire East is meeting its responsibility for the Health and Well-being of its residents. Permitting the location of over 2,500 residents in an area which could be a Health risk without proving it is safe would be an abdication of responsibility.
  • The Environmental Audit Committee reported on Air Quality. It found that poor air quality is shortening the life expectancy of people in the UK by an average of seven to eight months and is costing society up to £20 billion per year. Locating people on the White Moss would be very dangerous for residents and in particular children living there.

 

ARAG Proposal For the MMU Site – Progress.

ARAG Proposal For the MMU Site – Progress.

 

This post gives a progress report on the ARAG proposal for the MMU site.  You can also see this information under “Developing the MMU Campus” and “ARAG proposal – progress” on the web site.  We will endeavour to update this page as events take place. 

The ARAG campaign for a Mixed Development Proposal For the Alsager MMU Site was launched on 1/8/2013.

You will recall the 4 part plan:

 

  1. Save the playing fields and sports facilities for the Community
  2. Retain the best educational buildings and create a University Technical College
  3. Create a Community Village appropriate for the elderly and disabled with a care and social hub.
  4. No more than 300 houses to be built on the Brownfield footprint and preserving the play area.

We have been working very hard in ARAG since then and the response from the Community has been tremendous. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Our MP Fiona Bruce, is very committed and champions our proposal for a UTC in Alsager
  • We have the support of more than 3,000 Residents and this is growing
  • AFC Alsager, which runs 20 football teams in the Town, supports our proposals
  • ARAG officers and Councillor Longhurst will meet with Fiona Bruce and Lord Baker in Parliament, to discuss the Alsager UTC proposal. Lord Baker leads the Baker Dearing Educational Trust which is is a charity dedicated to establishing a network of University Technical Colleges in England. It was founded by Lord Baker of Dorking and the late Lord Dearing.
  • We have secured commitment and very strong support for the establishment of a UTC in Alsager from significant international Companies as well as from regional engineering firms.
  • We have confirmed the continuing engagement of Staffordshire University in the proposal to establish a UTC in Alsager

Our approach to this project from the outset has been to establish strong and sustainable partnerships involving employers, the community and existing educational institutions in the region. The UTC in Alsager would be built upon solid foundations and would complement, not duplicate, existing educational provision and would seek to engage both local schools and South Cheshire College in a constructive enterprise.

Those of us who are engaged in making this happen see the establishment of the UTC in Alsager – together with the wider approach to the future use of the MMU site – as embracing both a creative vision for the Town as well as addressing the widely-agreed employment, education, training and infrastructural issues that face Alsager as a community.

In the coming weeks, it is to be hoped that our elected representatives will listen to the Community and support this campaign to get the best for our Community, the wider regional Community and, in particular, for Alsager children.

We can only make this happen together. Please continue to support the proposal and spread the word to your friends and neighbours.

Cheshire East Local Plan

Cheshire East Local Plan.

A six week public consultation has now started on the  Cheshire East   ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’  document. You can read the letter from Adrian Fisher announcing the consultation below.  The pre-submission Core Strategy document is the basis for the Local Plan which will define how Cheshire East is to be developed over the next 20 years.  We are particularly concerned about the Cheshire East initiated proposals to adopt the White Moss as a Strategic Location and the removal of Education from the MMU site description.

In the next few days, we will post on how to access the documents and comment.  We will also post some background which should  help with formulating your comments / objections, particularly with respect to the White Moss and the MMU sites.

In the meantime, you can read and comment on the document here

You can download the document from “supporting documents” and then you can read about Alsager from section 15.166 onwards.  The Policy Section of the document makes for interesting reading.  These are the policies which will need to be applied in all future planning applications.  One of the main points being made by ARAG is that Cheshire East is not applying its own policies or the arguments it has developed throughout the recent appeals in its promotion and support of the White Moss location.  ARAG will post on these details, which will apply to both this document and the White Moss Planning proposal, in the near future.

Responses to the previous Cheshire East Local Plan Consultations have been limited, we need to be sure that Residents voice their opinions on this important document.

Town Council Meeting.

The Town Council has made the following announcement for planning meetings which will  address the White Moss Quarry , Close Lane and Twyfords planning applications.  It is important that as many Residents as possible attend these meetings, to hear what the Town Council has to say on these matters and if possible to make your views known in Public Participation.

CHANGES TO PLANNING COMMITTEE MEETINGS

 Further to the submission of an application at White Moss Quarry, please note the following changes to Planning and Community Services Committee.

 Wednesday 13th November at 4pm at Alsager Civic

Instead of Tuesday 11th November

 Wednesday 11th December at 4.30pm at Alsager Civic

Instead of Tuesday 10th December

 Both meetings need to finish by 7.30pm

 NOTE: The re-submission of the Close Lane application and the Sainsbury’s application on Twyfords will be discussed at the meeting on 13th November. 

 

 

Letter from Adrian Fisher:

Pre-Submission Core Strategy Consultation

Dear Sir or Madam,
 
Cheshire East Council Local Plan: Pre-Submission Core Strategy Consultation: 5th November to 16th December 2013
 
As you may know, Cheshire East Council has undertaken significant public consultation, since work began on the preparation of the Local Plan, in the Autumn of 2010. Following the full consideration of all the comments received from public consultations and the information contained within the comprehensive evidence base, that has been gathered to support the development of the Plan, the Council has produced the ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’ document. This document sets out where the future housing, employment and other development will take place and provides a clear indication of the vision that Cheshire East Council has for the Borough, in terms of how it will grow and develop, to the year 2030 and beyond.
 
The ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’ document is now undergoing a six week period of consultation, from 5th November to 16th December 2013.
 
The document is supported by a draft Sustainability Appraisal, Habitats Regulations Assessment and the ‘Non-Preferred Sites’ (a document which sets out the other sites that have been considered for inclusion in the Core Strategy, at previous stages in the process.) These documents are also available for public consultation.
 
Copies of the consultation documents and a Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan can be inspected, during the consultation period, on the Cheshire East website www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan and in the Customer Service Points in Crewe and Macclesfield and the Council’s headquarters at Westfields, Sandbach.
 
These documents (apart from the Sustainability Appraisal and the Habitats Regulations Assessment) are also available for inspection at all of the libraries and the Planning Help Desk, Municipal Buildings, Crewe.
 
A significant amount of detailed research and evidence has been gathered, to inform the Plan and is now available to view on the Cheshire East web site www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan. This includes background papers on housing and employment; the sites that are proposed for development and an assessment of the existing Green Belt, amongst others. All of this research and evidence has been used to produce the ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’ document. When considering the consultation documents, you will find it useful to also look at the research and evidence; this will enable you to make considered and informed comments. The comments form also asks you to set out how, as a result of your comments, you would like the ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’ document to be changed (if at all).
 
If you would like to comment on any of the research and evidence documents that have been produced, please ensure that this is done by relating your comments to a specific Policy in the ‘Pre-Submission Core Strategy’ document.
 
Cheshire East Council is encouraging as many people as possible to submit their comments online, to save time, paper and money.  As you are registered on our database,  you have already been assigned a username and password to enable you to comment online.  If you are unsure of your username and password please contact us by phone or email and we will provide these for you to save you registering again.  We have also produced a “Guide to Making Comments Online” leaflet to assist in submitting your comments.
 
Please ensure that you submit your comments by Monday 16th December 2013.
 
Further information can be obtained from the Cheshire East website www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan or by e-mail localplan@cheshireeast.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can telephone us on 01270 685893.
 
Kind Regards,
Adrian Fisher
Head of Strategic & Economic Planning

Close Lane Objections by 06/11/2013

Close Lane Objections Needed.

The ‘end of objections’ date for the Close Lane site is 06/11/2013.  If you haven’t yet submitted your objection, please support the residents in and around Close Lane by objecting before then.

The planning proposal identifier  is 13/4150N, which can be found here.

If you have submitted your objection would you please check the website to make sure it has been correctly captured and is present.  There was some confusion over planning reference numbers and we do know that some objections have been missed.

We know that there will be in excess of 400 objections but it would be excellent if we can make it much more than that.  We need to demonstrate that as a Community we do not want speculative development  around our Town, especially on our Greenfields.

As a background to objections, some ideas are:

  1. It is an intrusion into open countryside and outside the settlement boundary.
  2. Alsager is an area of restraint, in-line with Cheshire East’s  NPPF responsibility to consult with neighbouring authorites and to support the re-generation of the Potteries. 
  3.  This site is not included in the Alsager Town strategy and would be additional to Alsager’s housing allocation of 1,000 for the next 20 years.  As Alsager itself is acknowledged to be unsustainable as a key service centre from the point of view of employment and infrastructure, this development would not be sustainable.
  4.  This is a Greenfield site and Alsager’s allocation will be met through development of its Brownfield sites
  5.  When this application was originally made, it received over 600 objections if Localism means anything, it must take this extreme level of objection seriously.  This development is clearly not wanted by the Community.
  6.  Access to this site is along a dangerous and narrow country lane, without footpaths for significant stretches.  This road is already incapable of supporting local traffic safely.  It is already used as a dangerous “rat run” via Dunnocksfold Road.
  7.  Even if the commitments to provide accommodation for the elderly and provide affordable homes were kept, which in itself is questionable, this would isolate elderly people from the services and environment they need.
  8. The sewage pumping system along Close Lane is  inadequate.  This development would place an additional burden on that system.
  9.  The noise and atmospheric pollution ( NO2 and PM national limits ) from the M6 motorway needs to be assessed over an appropriate period of time to prove that national standards are met and that living so close to the motorway is not risking the health of Residents, especially Elderly Residents and children.  This development is too close to the M6 motorway.

IMPORTANT: Alsager and the Cheshire East Local Plan Consultation

Alsager and Cheshire East Local Plan Consultation

This post is very important for Alsager residents. Please support our Community and do what you can to ensure that everyone in Alsager understands the threats we now face.

 Cheshire East is about to start another round of consultation on its Local Plan. This will start around 4/11/2013 and will last for 6 weeks. We will post further details when it has started.

 On Friday 1/11/2013, a Cheshire East Cabinet Member for Communities Meeting was held to discuss and accept the latest site allocations and in particular the new strategic sites and locations. This new document from Cheshire East’s planning department includes the White Moss as a Strategic Location for 750 new dwellings in addition to Alsager’s allocation. It also changes some important features of the original Local Plan outline for ‘mixed use’ of the MMU site.

 Please support our efforts in the coming weeks to make it clear to the Planning Authorities and our elected representatives that Alsager does not want the unjustifiable and unwarranted levels of housing now being proposed.

 Cheshire East is increasing the housing allocations because it feels it must demonstrate a particular level of 5 year housing supply across the whole of the Borough. It bears no relationship to our needs in Alsager.

 This proposal has been instigated by Cheshire East alone.

 This new proposal further makes an absolute mockery of the Town Planning Process and any suggestion of Localism. These imposed proposals will at least double Alsager’s housing allocation, they will open the door to many more speculative developments and also undermine the aspiration for Education and Mixed Use provision on the MMU site, for which so many residents have now stated their support.

 If these proposals are accepted in the coming weeks, we can expect in excess of 3,000 new houses in Alsager with little improvement to our infrastructure.

 Strong representations were made against the inclusion of White Moss as a strategic location for housing development in the Local Plan by Chas Howard for ARAG you can read the ARAG letter here and its summary here. Councillor Hough also spoke against the inclusion of White Moss.

 Councillor David Brown, the Deputy Leader of Cheshire East said in the meeting that “some tough decisions have to be made”. We would suggest that making a decision like this is easy compared with the damage it will do to Alsager and the Alsager Community. We have to let Cheshire East know very clearly that Alsager does not want this level of development under any circumstances.

A Planning proposal has already been submitted for 1000 houses at the White Moss and by consulting on new Strategic Locations, Cheshire East will automatically give the application additional support because the developer will be able to argue that it is simply conforming with Cheshire East’s Pre-Submission Local Plan.

As a Community therefore, we are faced with two separate issues, the Pre-Submission Local Plan, together with its implications for Alsager and the White Moss planning application.

 The Pre-Submission Local Plan.

 There are two significant issues in this document which will have a serious impact on Alsager.

 White Moss

 Cheshire East propose the White Moss as a Strategic Location.

  • Part of this location is the subject of the Ombudsman’s report, which found several areas of maladministration. The final outcome is yet to be decided.
  • The Inspector from the Sandbach Road North appeal found that Alsager is an area of restraint, to support regeneration of the Potteries and the wishes of neighbouring Authorities. 1,000 houses on the White Moss demonstrates no restraint, quite the opposite in fact
  • If Cheshire East adopt this site as a strategic location, it will demonstrate tremendous inconsistency and be in conflict with the arguments which defended Sandbach Road North. It will also undermine any subsequent appeal.
  • The White Moss Quarry is subject to a detailed Restoration Plan, a legal agreement which cannot simply be swept under the carpet.
  • Planning conditions have not been enforced over the years and conditions have been changed with no consultation. Adopting this location would absolve the Quarry Operator of these issues and responsibilities and actively support the recently submitted planning proposal for White Moss development.

ARAG is against development in this area, primarily because it will double Alsager’s housing allocation, it is inconsistent with a number of Cheshire East Policies, it completely undermines the successful arguments against Greenfield development in Alsager and it will open the door to over 3,000 additional houses. The Town Council has also clearly stated that it is against including this location. There are a number of detailed planning objections to this Location which will be published on this site in the near future.

 MMU

There are two significant changes to the original draft Local Plan outline for potential development of ‘mixed use’ of the former MMU site. Residents will be aware that ARAG has been working on proposals for the inclusion of a University Technical College on this site. In recent weeks we have been able to report significant progress in our discussions with not only the University but also with major global employers in the region and with a range of medium sized engineering companies in support of the UTC proposal. Furthermore, we now have more than 3,000 supporters for this proposal in Alsager. We pointed out that this was an appropriate development in relation to the draft Local Plan which stated that the mixed use of the site could include:

 On site provision, or where appropriate, relevant contributions towards transport and highways, education, health, open space and community facilities’. (Emphasis added)

We know that the leaders of Cheshire East Council were aware of the significant progress that ARAG has made in recent months towards the realisation of a UTC on this site, and so we note with interest that this sentence has now been removed from the Local Plan proposal for the former MMU site. We will leave residents to draw their own conclusions and to ask: Who was involved in the process to remove this reference to the potential for on site educational provision?

 The second excision from the draft Local Plan’s description of the MMU site seems to be a generally consistent removal of reference to the Council’s policy on affordable homes.. The delivery of homes in the original is outlined as:

 Including 30% of new homes to be ‘housing to meet local needs’, in line with Policy SC4 in the Emerging Policy Principles document.’This policy is entirely focused upon the provision of affordable homes for local people and there is now no mention of any such requirement in relation to the MMU site. 

We will seek to ascertain whether all Development sites remain subject to the policy for the provision of 30% affordable homes. We do note, however, that there is much slippage in the implementation of this policy following viability assessments – not available to the public – regarding the levels of the Developer’s profit margins.

What is now proposed for the MMU site is:

  • 175 homes expected during the early part of the plan period (2015-2020)
  • 175 homes expected during the middle part of the plan period (2020-2025)

 This constitutes a reduction of 50 houses from the original Cheshire East draft document although 50 more than was identified in the Congleton Borough Development Brief which set a maximum of 300 for the site.

 With reference to the sports facilities (buildings as well as pitches) the vagueness continues in that the original draft Local Plan’s ‘Creation of a Sports and Leisure Hub’ has now become ‘Creation of a wider sports and leisure hub, linked to the adjacent Cheshire East Council leisure centre facilities’ (Emphasis added) which may serve to indicate that we are, in fact, no further forward on this key issue.

 Finally, residents in Hassall Road, Church Road, Lodge Road, Close Lane and Dunnocksfold Road will be interested to know that the Council provides a ‘justification’ for its proposals on this site as follows:

 

    1. Situated adjacent to the corner of the existing settlement, the site presents an excellent opportunity to contribute to housing stock in the area, whilst retaining and enhancing important leisure facilities, forming a wider leisure hub linked to the adjacent school and Cheshire East Council leisure centre.

 The Strategic Priorities are said to be:

 

  • To create Sustainable Communities
  • To reduce the need to travel

 It is hard to take this seriously because Cheshire East Council has already accepted, in legal testimony, that Alsager is ‘unsustainable’ as a Key Service Centre and that its Housing Policy for this community is set to increase outward-commuting as registered in the recent Inspectorates Report on Sandbach Road North. There is no mention, then, of the issues around road infrastructure in this part of Alsager, nor the increase in congestion and carbon emissions that this Development and others will inevitably generate.

 We might also comment that the justification for the Council’s proposals includes ‘Nurturing Strong Communities’ Residents can decide for themselves whether its elected members are listening to them or representing the interests of this community in the decision-making around the Local Plan process

 The White Moss Planning Application.

 The White Moss planning application 13/4132N can be viewed here. We will post suggested objections on the web site in the next few days. The documents referred to above give some background but the key points are:

 

  • The White Moss Quarry is covered by a restoration plan, a legal agreement, which would create a Nature Reserve and recreational amenities. This plan should be implemented and not ignored for the sake of unwanted and unnecessary housing.

 

  • The White Moss itself is environmentally important and it is close to a RAMSAR site see here for details. 

 

  • Development on the White Moss will conflict with a number of Cheshire East policies, e.g. employment, minerals, intrusion into and harm to open countryside, air quality, noise, ( from the M6). More details will be supplied in the near future.

 

  • Alsager is an area of restraint to support the regeneration of the Potteries and this was one of the main reasons for rejecting the Sandbach Road North proposal. Building on the White Moss demonstrates no restraint.

 

  • Intrusion into and harm to the open countryside was the main reason for rejection of the Sandbach Road North appeal, this proposal would destroy any possibility of the planned  Nature Reserve and it would create natural infill areas which would destroy even more Greenfields.

 

  • By violating its own policies in so many ways, Cheshire East will undermine its own carefully developed arguments to fight off speculative developments, which were used in the recent round of development appeals. We see this as an abdication of responsibility and giving up on Alsager

 

 

 

Active Planning Proposals

Active Planning Proposals

There has been some confusion over the recent planning appeal numbers.  In addition, there is now a planning proposal active for the White Moss, which will the subject of a post in the near future.

The current active planning proposals which are receiving objections / comments are:

Close Lane reference 13/4150N, which you can view here 

Hall Drive reference 13/4092C which you can view here

White Moss reference 13/4132N which you can view here

 

House of Commons – Alsager

House of Commons – Alsager 

ARAG was glad to provide assistance to our MP Fiona Bruce this week, in preparation for her speech to the House of Commons.  You can read the detail here.

From the accompanying letter and the details of the speach, it was good to see that ARAG’s contribution played  a significant part and we would like to congratulate Fiona Bruce on her strong and consistent support for our Community.

Hall Drive

As previously reported, a new planning application has been received for Hall Drive, reference 13/4092C


You can view it here and also make comments or objections.

The Hall Drive Action Group is running this campaign and we wish them good luck and as always, we will provide any support we can if needed.

Close Lane Objections

Close Lane Objections

It is now very important to register your objections to the new Close Lane planning proposal.

When the Developer – Muller Property Group (MPG)  - previously proposed to build on this site, there were over 600 objections from Residents ( lets see if we can beat that ).  When this was rejected by our decision maker, Cheshire East, MPG chose to appeal.  This appeal has not yet taken place but now MPG has submitted an additional application for the same site, demonstrating total disregard for either the Community view or the planning process.

The situation created by the recent appeal decision in Alsager’s favour for Sandbach Road North and the Inspector’s findings is that:

  • Cheshire East can not demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing
  • The Emerging Local Plan attracts limited weight
  • The Town Strategy being a non-statutory document  carries little weight
In order to defend Close Lane therefore or indeed any Alsager site, we need to have a significant response from the Community which is based on sound site specific planning reasons.
You can raise objections and view other objections here.  Please note that objections end 6/11/2013, so if you can spare the time, this weekend is a great time to do it.
If you have difficulties with the website, as many people are reporting, then you can e-mail your objection to: planning@cheshireeast.gov.uk  
Please provide the planning number ( 13/4150N )  together with your full name and address with Post Code, your status e.g. resident and explain that you have used this approach because the website will not take your input, together of course with your objection content.
Some initial reasons for objection are shown below, as more become available, we will add to them.
Please help us to  stop this speculative development and make sure there are as many objections as possible.  Don’t leave it to others, they may be leaving it to you.
Some suggested reasons for objection:

1. It is an intrusion into open countryside and outside the settlement boundary.

2. Alsager is an area of restraint, in-line with Cheshire East’s  NPPF responsibility to consult with neighbouring authorites and to support the re-generation of the Potteries. 

3. This site is not included in the Alsager Town strategy and would be additional to Alsager’s housing allocation of 1,000 for the next 20 years.  As Alsager itself is acknowledged to be unsustainable as a key service centre from the point of view of employment and infrastructure, this development would not be sustainable.

4. This is a Greenfield site and Alsager’s allocation will be met through development of its Brownfield sites

5.  When this application was originally made, it received over 600 objections if Localism means anything, it must take this extreme level of objection seriously.  This development is clearly not wanted by the Community.

6.  Access to this site is along a dangerous and narrow country lane, without footpaths for significant stretches.  This road is already incapable of supporting local traffic safely.  It is already used as a dangerous “rat run” via Dunnocksfold Road.

7.  Even if the commitments to provide accommodation for the elderly and provide affordable homes were kept, which in itself is questionable, this would isolate elderly people from the services and environment they need.

8.  The sewage pumping system along Close Lane is  inadequate.  This development would place an additional burden on that system.

9.  The noise and atmospheric pollution ( NO2 and PM national limits ) from the M6 motorway needs to be assessed over an appropriate period of time to prove that national standards are met and that living so close to the motorway is not risking the health of Residents, especially Elderly Residents and children.  This development is too close to the M6 motorway.

White Moss Quarry and Re-submitted Planning Applications

White Moss Quarry and Re-submitted Planning Applications 

Background

ARAG is opposed to the inclusion of White Moss Quarry as a Strategic Location in the Cheshire East Local Plan and also against any planning proposal which might be presented for the White Moss Quarry in the meantime. We recommend that Alsager residents submit their objections to this Cheshire East proposal during the forthcoming six week consultation period.

 The reasons for taking this position are expanded below.

 Cheshire East has decided to delay the Local Plan process in order to have a further 6 week public consultation on additional Strategic Sites/Locations. The White Moss Quarry is one of these and has been classified a Strategic Location. This is both good and bad news. The good news is that there is now an opportunity for the Community to make its feelings known about the White Moss, which we must take. Delaying the Local Plan however means delaying the protection which a Local Plan should offer. We now know that the Planning Inspector has ruled that Cheshire East does not have a 5 year supply of available building land and we can anticipate more speculative development proposals as the window of opportunity for Developers widens. As a result of the Sandbach Road North Appeal Decision, one important consequence for the Community is that a high level of site specific, incisive objections to each planning proposal will be a key factor in influencing the outcomes.

 Developers have re-submitted planning proposals for two sites (Close Lane and Hall Drive) which are currently going to appeal. The period for objections for these two sites ends on November 4th and it is extremely important to ensure that the Alsager Community makes its position clear to ensure that Cheshire East is aware of the strength of feeling and that subsequent appeals are not compromised by a lack of response from the Community.

 Cheshire East Local Plan – Additional Sites / Locations.

  Following the meeting of Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board on Thursday 26/09/2013, which was reported here , Cheshire East has now decided to have an additional 6 week public consultation. The results of that consultation should be debated by Cheshire East full Council in late December. This is a significant improvement from the previously reported position which would have rushed the additional sites through with inadequate consultation. In ARAG’s opinion, adopting the White Moss as a Strategic Location would also compromise Cheshire East’s position in future appeals. It would appear that Cheshire East has listened to the input from the various speakers on the day, where Alsager was so well represented.

 When the public consultation starts, we will post to inform our members and request a substantial public response. The White Moss site location is discussed below.

 In the meantime, the Cheshire East Local Plan is delayed and of course this widens the “window of opportunity” for further speculative development proposals.

 The White Moss Quarry.

Cheshire East has identified the White Moss Quarry as an additional Strategic Location in its draft Local Plan. One of the implications of it being a Location, rather than a Site, is that its boundaries are not clearly defined and given that the White Moss Quarry is adjacent to several Greenfields as well as Cheshire East-owned land, ARAG considers it highly likely that Developers will wish to expand this boundary.

A housing quota of 1,000 houses, for the next 20 years, was imposed on Alsager by Cheshire East, a target which has never been objectively assessed. This number was subsequently adopted without challenge in the Town Plan. Cheshire East has proposed that this level should be increased to 1,100, with no justification. This should also be taken in the context that the Cheshire East legal team, in the recent Sandbach Road North appeal, argued that Alsager in its current form is unsustainable both on the grounds of employment and its road system and Alsager should not take any more than the 1,000 defined in the Town Plan.

Even though the White Moss boundaries are not defined, Cheshire East is proposing a housing level of at least 900 houses, which is additional to Alsagers quota, doubling it to 2000.

The ARAG statement of position can be viewed here, and this unjustifiable increase in Alsager’s housing quota is the primary reason for ARAG’s objection.

There are a number of issues associated with the White Moss Quarry which do not appear to have been adequately addressed in the Cheshire East proposal.

  • The licence for quarrying activity on the White Moss Quarry is subject to a phased restoration plan. These phases along with other licence conditions do not appear to have been fully implemented or enforced and there is no discussion or justification within the draft Local Plan about the quarry licence commitment to restore the site according to the agreed restoration plan. It would seem unjustifiable that such an important restoration agreement in such a sensitive area should simply be swept away to facilitate housing.
  • On-site measurement of noise and air pollution from the M6 Motorway has not been carried out to demonstrate that this site complies with European and National standards and to prove that there is no risk to the health of residents and in particular children, living in such close proximity to the motorway. National and European health standards for air and noise pollution do exist and in ARAG’s view, these need to be objectively and accurately measured on the site over a credible and representative time period to prove the site is safe and before any decisions can be made.
  • Throughout the recent Alsager appeals, all of which were attended by ARAG officers, Cheshire East has argued that Alsager cannot take more than its allocation of 1,000 houses, that the Settlement Zone Boundary should not be violated and that any increase would worsen Alsager’s current unsustainability. If Cheshire East does adopt the White Moss as a Strategic Location, doubling the Alsager housing allocation and violating the settlement Zone Boundary, that argument will be undermined and this would compromise future appeals. At least another 5 appeals are anticipated.
  • In making his decision to refuse the Sandbach Road North appeal, the Inspector ruled that it it would seem wise, in this part of the Borough, not to proceed with development which would go beyond the draft strategy at this stage. This is because of the need to assess the impact on adjoining Authorities who have expressed reservations in relation to development close to the common boundaries and specifically, they have expressed concern about development on the White Moss.

 When either Cheshire East starts the 6-week consultation process or a White Moss Quarry planning proposal is received, ARAG will inform its members and recommend objections.

  Re-submission of Planning Proposals.

 Even though the proposals for Close Lane – Muller and Hall Drive will go to appeal, Developers have re-submitted new planning applications . The references are 13/4150 for Close Lane which can be viewed here   and 13/4092C for Hall Drive. which can be viewed here

This approach by Developers demonstrates a clear disdain for the planning process and the clearly expressed views of the Community, however it is very important that there is a strong, clear response from Alsager Residents to these new proposals.

 We would urge all of our members to respond in the strongest possible terms to both of these speculative ( doubly speculative?) Greenfield proposals. We will post in the near future to suggest reasons.

 

 

Appeal Decisions

Appeal Decisions.

 Two planning local appeal decisions were released yesterday, Friday 18/10/2013. Philip Major, the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, dismissed the appeal over Sandbach Road North Alsager but granted the appeal for Congleton Road Sandbach. This is good news for Alsager and in particular the Residents in the proximity of Sandbach Road North but very disappointing news for our neighbours in Sandbach.

 The Cheshire East Legal Team did well to win the Sandbach Road North appeal. ARAG Officers attended on every day of both these appeals, witnessed a considerable amount of very detailed evidence and cross examination and made a significant contribution to the process. It is encouraging to see that effort was worthwhile and not wasted and that it is possible to win an appeal in the current environment and in the absence of a Local Plan and 5 year supply.

 ARAG was thanked directly by Richard Humphreys QC, acting for Cheshire East, for our attendance, on-going help and effective evidence statements. This serves to demonstrate the importance of resident attendance and participation at these appeals and that we can influence the final outcome. ARAG members were also the only Local Representatives to attend the important site visits allowing us to be in a position to answer questions from the inspector using our local knowledge and experience.

 Throughout these appeals, we have had the opportunity to develop our knowledge and subsequent input by attending the appeals and witnessing the various approaches by the Developers’ legal teams. We are using this experience and carefully following the advice from professional planning consultants who are helping our organisation to prepare our documentation and strategies.

 Mr Major concluded that Cheshire East Council is unable to demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites. Furthermore, he concludes that Cheshire East does not have a Local Plan in place, and gives ”little weight” to it as an emerging Local Plan or to the Alsager Town Strategy, which he views as an “information gathering exercise to inform the preparation of the Local Plan”.

 Removing Cheshire East’s ability to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing is a serious threat to future planning decisions and appeals. It does however highlight the very important point that it is possible to overcome the lack of a 5 year supply if there is a detailed and well researched substantive argument against housing development on a specific site. Each Planning Proposal and the objections to it will be considered on its merits and the public response to such proposals is a significant consideration.

 It is clear that at future appeals and with future planning proposals, ARAG and residents must concentrate on the site specific issues. It is also extremely important to ensure that there is substantial local representation. ARAG was the only group to attend all of the appeals sessions ( over 20 days ). It is clearly very important to ensure that there is a substantial and vocal presence of Local representatives, the Community and Town Councillors at these planning appeals.

 In this case, Sandbach Road North Alsager was dismissed by the Inspector primarily because there would be serious harm to the character and appearance of the countryside, and therefore a conflict with development plan policies. The Inspector also thought it wise not to proceed with this development because of the duty to cooperate with Neighbouring Authorites and in this case because Alsager is considered to be an area of restraint due to re-generation activities in the Potteries.

The summary decisions are given below and The text of the two appeals can be viewed here.

 Congleton Road – Sandbach 

Sandbach Road North – Alsager.

 The following text extracts summarise the results of the appeals.

 Sandbach – Congleton Road.

 Final Conclusion

87. The Council is unable, on my assessment, to demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites. This is a substantial material consideration in favour of the proposal. In addition the affordable housing to be provided is of significant benefit. There is conflict with the development plan as described above, but the harm identified, to landscape, loss of BMV land, and the loss of outlook for local residents do not amount to significant and demonstrable harm which would outweigh the benefits of the scheme. In this instance there are material considerations which outweigh conflict with the development plan. For the reasons given above I conclude that the appeal should be allowed.

 Alsager – Sandbach Road North – Overall Balance and Area of Restraint.

 66. Impact on adjoining authorities. The adjoining Councils (Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme) have been consulted in relation to the draft development strategy and have made it clear that there are reservations in relation to development close to the common boundaries of a scale which might prejudice regeneration in their areas. However, there is no specific objection lodged to this particular proposal. I bear in mind that the final version of the CEC Local Plan has yet to be examined and the matter of the duty to cooperate with neighbouring authorities will no doubt form part of that examination. So whilst I cannot indicate that granting permission on this site would cause difficulties for regeneration elsewhere, it would seem wise, in this part of the Borough, not to proceed with development which would go beyond the draft strategy at this stage. This matter is not determinative in its own right, but is a matter which adds caution to the process of decision making. (italics added)

 69. In this section I balance the determinative matters at issue. I start from the  position that the Council cannot yet, in my assessment, demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable housing land. This is an important and substantial material consideration, and in light of the NPPF it would normally lead to a grant of planning permission unless significant and demonstrable impacts would outweigh the benefits of the scheme. The benefits also include the provision of affordable housing – a significant matter. But there is no material support from the sustainable credentials of the site or any of the other benefits listed above.

70. On the other hand there would be serious harm resulting from the impact of the proposal on the character and appearance of the countryside, and consequent conflict with the development plan policies noted earlier, which carry significant weight. This harm to character and appearance is significant and is demonstrable. Such harm is not to be taken lightly and has, in my judgement, been underestimated by the Appellant.

 71. The lack of a 5 year supply of deliverable housing land does not provide an automatic ‘green light’ to planning permission, even if accompanied by affordable housing and other minor benefits as in this case. A balance must still be struck. In this instance I am satisfied that the balance lies with the harm to character and appearance of the countryside, and is so significant that it outweighs the lack of housing land supply and other identified benefits. It would not matter if I had decided that Policies PS8 and H6 were out of date as I consider that the harm in this case is such that the appeal must fail.

 

Strategic Planning Board – 26/09/2013 – Additional Sites

Strategic Planning Board – 26/09/2013 – Additional Sites

Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board (SPB) had an all day meeting to consider the Cheshire East Local Plan – Report of Consultation and Core Strategy. As the result of a “soft” 1 month consultation over additional sites for the Local Plan, Cheshire East has identified a number of sites and made changes to proposed allocations in its Local Plan.

The key areas affecting Alsager are:

  • White Moss
  • MMU
  • Twyfords and Cardway Cartons
  • Radway Business Park.

The main impact on Alsager is the addition of the White Moss Quarry Site, where it is suggested that at least 900 additional houses should be built. Because this is an additional site, it would effectively double Alsager’s allocation of housing, with no consultation. The site in question is now much larger than the original quarry and it also includes Greenfields.

Alsager was well represented by ARAG, residents and Councillor Fletcher. Councillor Hough is the Vice Chairman of the Strategic Planning Board and he made strong representations about the issues surrounding White Moss and the “flawed consultation process”. You can view his notes here.

Alsager presentations were given by:

Derek Bould (ARAG ) you can view his presentation here.

Chas Howard (ARAG ) you can view his presentation here.

Ian White ( Resident ) you can view his presentation here.

Cath Mainwaring ( Resident ) you can view her presentation here.

Mike Allot ( Resident ) you can view his presentation here.

Sylvia Dyke ( Resident )

Councillor Rod Fletcher ( Alsager and Cheshire East )

All of the presentations were good and made strong points against the White Moss, in line with the Town Councils statement that it strongly objects to the White Moss Development.

Our understanding is that the Strategic Planning Board will make no decisions about any of the sites, it will simply pass on the information on additional sites and the comments made in the meeting to the Cabinet who will decide and make recommendations to full Council.

If this is the case, it is very disappointing and vindicates Cnclr Hough’s objection about the consultation process being flawed. Without transparency of the decision making process, it is difficult to see how or believe that the strong views expressed will be taken into account.

It is possible to see all of the indicated presentations above. The key points are:

  • It is acknowledged by Cheshire East that Alsager is unsustainable as a Key Service centre, yet Cheshire East intends to at least double Alsager’s housing allocation with no justification or consultation.
  • Including White Moss in Alsager’s Allocation contradicts many of the arguments used by Cheshire East in the recent Alsager appeals. This will be used by Developers’ legal teams and will undermine Cheshire East’s position in current and future appeals as well as the Local Plan itself. This could lead the way to 3,000 houses in Alsager.
  • The White Moss contravenes a number of Cheshire East Policies, this will undermine future appeals and presents a risk to the success and acceptability of the Local Plan.
  • This development would also create infill areas which could mean even more housing as Alsager expands ( sprawls ) right up to the M6.
  • White Moss is adjacent to the M6 and Cheshire East does not know if this presents dangerous levels of Air and noise Pollution to anyone living there. Some mandatory National and EU limits are not being monitored by Cheshire East and specifically, the pollution levels are not known for this site.
  • The impact of White Moss on the nearby RAMSAR site, the local environment and the abundant wildlife is not known.
  • For a range of reasons, this proposal is not sustainable, the roads and traffic are a particular concern. 

The detail of these issues can be seen in the presentations.

The new MMU proposal is for 350 houses with some land being protected. This level is still 50 above that of the Town Plan, so it needs to come down and we would argue that more land needs to be protected including: some Sports fields and the Sports and educational buildings

ARAG will take every opportunity to object to the proposed approach on the White Moss and the load imposed on our Town. As the outcome of this SPB meeting becomes clear, we will Post again and also suggest action we can all take as residents.

 

 

 

 

 

White Moss, MMU and Cheshire East

White Moss, MMU and Cheshire East

 

We believe this post is critical to the future of Alsager.

Cheshire East has announced that it proposes to include in its Local Plan, at least 900 houses on the White Moss Quarry in addition to Alsager’s allocation of 1,000 (or Cheshire East’s draft proposal of 1100). The allocation of housing on the MMU site is also now proposed at 350. This should be compared with the 300 in the Alsager Town Strategy, which in itself is double the Public Inquiry Inspector’s recommendation of 150 for the site.

The proposal to develop housing in Barthomley has been dropped for the time being as have other proposals in the area. As a matter of principle, in its 25 years of operation, ARAG has never supported development of housing outside its catchment area, in fact we have given as much support to other organisations in the area as we can. It is unfortunate that Cheshire East and others outside Alsager, presumably through self-interest, have chosen to support this development and the obvious ensuing increased pressure on the Alsager Community.

Bearing in mind that there are 5-8 Alsager planning appeals currently underway, with a very uncertain outcome, Alsager is now faced with the realistic prospect of up to 3,000 additional houses and you can view a breakdown of that housing here. This represents a 62% – 68% growth in population ( 8,000 people, 6,000 cars?) with no credible infrastructure improvements, Plan or Community benefits.

At the Alsager Town Council meeting on Tuesday 17/09/2013, the Town Council re-asserted its position that it is strongly opposed to any housing development on the White Moss. You can view ARAG’s position here. ARAG is similarly strongly opposed to any development which makes worse Alsager’s acknowledged unsustainability. There has never been an objective appraisal of housing need in Alsager and so the original quota of 1,000 itself is suspect, let alone the anticipated 3,000. For these reasons, ARAG is also strongly opposed to this proposed development.

We would make the following points:

  • Attempts were made to stop the additional consultation for the Local Plan which led to these changes. It was argued that people and Groups other than locals would vote for development and that self-interest would come into play, rather than effective strategic planning. There was no support for these ideas from the Strategic Planning Board but this is exactly what has happened.
  • ARAG attended all of the recent planning appeals. It was a steep learning curve with some very clear messages:Whether or not Cheshire East stands up to this level of scrutiny in the current round of planning appeals, remains to be seen, the Inspectors will decide.
    • All Cheshire East Planning decisions have to be clearly justified and capable of withstanding expert scrutiny.
    • All policies and their application in plans. strategies and decisions have to be consistent and that consistency has to be sufficiently robust to withstand expert scrutiny.
  • In these planning appeals, Cheshire East has been arguing:
    • that Alsager itself is unsustainable because of the lack of jobs ( 300 below the minimum ) and the inadequate roads.
    • There should be no incursion into open countryside and that Greenfields ( beyond the Settlement Zone Line ) should be protected.
    • Any development in excess of the planned development on Alsager’s Brownfield sites would be premature to the Local Plan and distort planning.
    • The Town Plan contains the expressed wishes of the Alsager Community.
    • Alsager is an area of restraint to support regeneration in the Potteries and the views of Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme councils indicate that they do not want White Moss to be developed.

This allocation is entirely inconsistent with these arguments which are now on the record and a part of the evidence base. Cheshire East is proposing to:

  • add 900+ houses to a Town which they admit is unsustainable
  • permit incursion into the Countryside
  • permit development on Greenfield land
  • violate the Settlement Zone Line.
  • ignore the expressed wishes of the Alsager Community
  • ignore the area of restraint policy and the wishes of neighbouring authorities.

Bearing in mind that there are 5-8 appeals outstanding, if Cheshire East effectively add these 900+ houses to Alsager’s allocation, and demonstrate such an inconsistent approach to its planning, they will demonstrate very clearly that no weight should be given to any of these arguments. They will demonstrate that they are quite prepared to be totally inconsistent with their own policies and their appeal statements. Clearly the Developers’ legal teams will have a field day at Cheshire East’s, Alsager’s and ratepayers’ expense. This in turn will leave the door open to up to 3,000 houses in Alsager to the expense of our Community.

Some other points are:

  • This estate which will be from 900 to 1,200 houses, is in close proximity to the Motorway. It is clear that there are health risks from placing people and in particular children close to the motorway and no assessment exercise has been undertaken, other than a theoretical desk exercise. There has been some measurement of Nitrogen Dioxide levels on an annual mean basis but there is no data demonstrating whether or not national hourly peak ( danger ) limits are exceeded.  There has been no measurement of particles in the atmosphere on this site and their likely impact. Cheshire East is aware of the research and the risks but is “not minded“ to monitor particulate ( PM10 and PM2.5 ) levels or monitor hourly Nitrogen dioxide levels.
  • Restoration of the levels in the Quarry which presumably Cheshire East will enforce according to the Quarry licence and restoration plan, and the building of 900 + houses will in itself create pollution and many years of intrusion into the lives of local residents.
  • The Close Lane and Dunnocksfold Road areas are already very dangerous. This proposal would add to that danger and Residents are very concerned about the impact of any proposals on the Road system. An independent assessment of all of Alsager’s roads is essential as reliance on the bland Cheshire East highways reports take no account of danger, cumulative effects and Residents’ views.
  • The area being proposed is much greater than the Quarry site, including Greenfield, land and a significant impact on farming land. It will extend the settlement boundary and create obvious infill areas which are currently outside the Settlement Zone Line.
  • Alsager Residents have not had an opportunity to voice their opinion on this, the MMU proposal, or the extension of the Radway Business area to the A500. It seems clear that Localism has a very low priority with our elected representatives but in this case and because of the likely impact on Alsager, Residents must be given the opportunity to voice their opinion and influence decision making. This should not be a decision based on artificial targets, politics or self-interest.

Overview.

There has never been a demonstration of any consistent planning in relationship to the needs of the Alsager Community. The current infrastructure and our inability to support the demands placed upon us a Key Service Centre have never been addressed.

ARAG in its proposal to retain the facilities on the MMU for the Community has demonstrated that we have thought strategically about existing and future needs for the Community. The impact of further housing developed in our area will place tremendous pressure on us to provide the very facilities for which we have been arguing, both from an educational and a Community point of view.

How can Cheshire East politicians and their leader impose 3,000 houses on our Community and at the same time be party to the removal of those very facilities we will need for the well being of all Residents?

What’s happened to Localism by the way?

If we lose these facilities and gain 3,000 houses, this Community will never forgive our political representatives.

Details of the Strategic Planning Board meeting to discuss these Local Plan Changes and the plan details can be found here.  The meeting will take place on 

Thursday, 26th September, 2013 10.30 am

Venue: Crewe Alexandra Football Club, Gresty Road, Crewe, CW2 6EB

Hassall Road Appeal and the Appeal Process

Hassall Road Appeal

ARAG has attended 3 planning appeals over the last two months, the last of which, Hassall Road, ended on Friday 6/09/2013. There are two reasons for attending: to understand the process and the threats we face from well-represented and well-funded Developers and secondly, to ensure that a Community view was adequately presented to the Inspector. ARAG attended all 3 days of the Hassall Road appeal in Macclesfield, Councillor Hough attended for an hour on the first day and Councillor Jones for two hours on the second day.

 This has been a very steep learning curve but there is one fundamental point which came up over and over again. All material in the public domain and the published evidence supporting the process which developed that material, is subject to intense scrutiny throughout an appeal. If something in the “evidence base” is inaccurate, vague or missing or if an assertion has no justification in the “evidence base”, it will be challenged and it will result in that evidence carrying little weight in the Inspector’s decision-making process. This covers all documents in the public domain, for example: plans, supporting documents and Town Council minutes ( which were the subject of some scrutiny and criticism ). In other words, every word in a document such as our Adopted Town Strategy or its draft needs to be professionally and rigorously tested before publication, otherwise it can, and will be, undermined. It is not just the content which is important, it is also what is omitted or not addressed. All documents in the public domain were treated very seriously during the appeal and all such issues identified, served to challenge Cheshire East’s Case.

 It has been strongly argued, throughout all of the appeals, by Richard Humphries QC (Cheshire East’s legal representative) and ARAG that the Adopted Alsager Town Strategy was produced through a democratic process and that it represents the expressed views of Alsager Residents. The appellant ( Developer’s barrister Ms Morag Ellis QC ), however, determined that the Alsager target of 1,000 was a top-down target assigned by Cheshire East which was not challenged during the Town Plan Process. When questioned on this point by Mr John Barratt, the developer’s barrister at the Sandbach Road North appeal, Councillor Derek Hough appeared to confirm that this was the case. (Councillor Hough was Alsager’s Stakeholder Panel Co-ordinator)

 Furthermore, the identified site allocations in the Town Strategy do not add up to 1,000 (shortfall of 110). The Town Strategy states that “The lack of recent development is increasing the pressure on the housing market, creating a latent demand and potentially increasing issues with affordability and access to housing” and the decision to drop particular areas from the draft Town Plan is not justified in the evidence base. The appellants argue that this statement clearly indicates ‘pent up’ demand for housing in Alsager.

 It is unclear whether or not these issues will influence the Inspector’s decision. It is clear, however, that they could have been easily avoided through adequate document inspection and process documentation. ARAG worked to counter these arguments and and could not have done more to defend the core principle of the Town Strategy regarding brownfield development before Greenfield. We would argue, however, that residents in the community of Alsager should not have been placed in this vulnerable situation potentially leading to exploitation by Developers.

 The table below attempts to summarise the arguments over the 3 days but taking a boxing analogy, it is possible to see when someone has scored a point but in this case, it isn’t possible to determine the value of a point in the Inspector’s thinking.

The last 3 days of the Hassall Road appeal addressed the issue of whether or not Cheshire East can demonstrate a 5 year supply of available housing land. Derek Bould presented the ARAG view and that can be viewed here. Derek Longhurst, attending the Appeal as a resident, ARAG member and a Town Councillor, submitted a presentation which can be viewed here.

 Councillor Derek Hough requested that he be allowed to present but the Inspector declined, ruling that he had made it clear that he didn’t want to cover areas already addressed in the first part of the appeal which took place in May.

 We will now have to wait for the Inspector’s report, which will inform the decision to be made by the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles MP). The implications of the Secretary of State overturning Cheshire East’s rejection of this proposal are severe. It would set a precedent which could lead to all other appeals being approved in favour of the developers.

 

 

Appellant Statement Cheshire East
This is a modest application, surprised to be here for just 30 houses where there is “pent up demand.” It’s only 30 after all. The Town plan says there is “pent up demand” It would set precedent and would lead to 3,000 around Alsager. This cumulative effect is called “prematurity” and it would have an unacceptable impact on Cheshire East’s emerging Local Plan.
Cheshire East is holding back development where there is an objectively assessed demand. Cheshire East Numbers can’t be delivered in Appellant’s view. We have a plan which Cheshire East is confident can be delivered.
The Cheshire East Local plan identifies 1,100 houses but only identifies two strategic sites. Twyfords (450) and MMU ( 400). The plan doesn’t make it clear where the other 250 will come from. Why would this site not be chosen? It was a preferred option site in the draft plan and a majority voted for it. Acknowledged that the plan left a gap but that this wasn’t material as things change and the Local plan is considering primarily strategic sites. The Hassall Road site isn’t in the Town Plan.
Only 54 houses have been delivered in the last 5 years in Alsager. This is evidence of pent up demand. Where is the evidence that Alsager will deliver the 1,000 houses in the Town plan or the 1,100 in the emerging Cheshire East Local Plan? Cheshire East considers that the Alsager Town Strategy is appropriate and that the policy of Brownfield before Greenfield will deliver the required numbers.
Can’t believe that there is a case for prematurity on this site. How can 30 houses affect the whole of Cheshire East or Alsager. Releasing Area J would be a good thing. Because it will set a precedent and in particular release Area J. (Land adjacent to MMU)Appellant objected here saying: introducing prematurity at this point was not acceptable. Inspector ruled that he hadn’t a problem with that but that Mr Humphries should be aware of the risks
There is no reference to prematurity in the NPPF and anyhow, the numbers in the Town Strategy do not add up to 1,000. Legal point, there are relevant cases and prematurity can be argued.
Any policy which restricts growth is contrary to the NPPF. Settlement Zone Lines are an example. They restrict growth. They should be changed regularly to accommodate growth. You must always consider the 3 aspects of the NPPF: Growth, Environment and Community. Settlement zone lines protect the countryside and the nature of the settlement.SZLs are used in many other places.They are multi-purpose, defining settlements and also defining where the countryside starts. This is a way of protecting the countryside.There are several examples where the Inspector found that SZLs were appropriate to protect the countryside e.g. Loachbrook judgement, Shavington, Hind Heath, Bishops Cleve
Settlement zone lines have changed in the past when in Congleton Borough Council, why not now to release pent up demand. Economic growth shouldn’t be held back but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the countryside and social needs.Didn’t confirm if settlement zones lines have changed
Settlement zone lines expired in 2011, so they need revision in the Local plan. Cheshire East revises them when it suits for their plans with strategic sites. The current settlement zone lines will allow for significant growth and they will allow the numbers to be achieved
The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) was agreed after consultation with Developers in 2012 but not 2013. Cheshire East changed lead in and delivery rates which are not agreed with the industry. Cheshire East has not been transparent. The SHLAA has to be updated every year. Cheshire East is transparent.
The SHLAA has not yet been objectively tested as this part of the Local Plan adoption process has not taken place. This will not happen soon as there has to be public consultation, there will be a lot of objections and the document has to be rigorously assessed before it is adopted Cheshire East is doing everything it can to deliver the Local Plan. Much of this problem has been caused by the creation of the unitary authority Cheshire East from 3 boroughs.
The approach with strategic sites mitigates against housing delivery. They go against countryside policy and therefore will create objections. Delivery rates cannot be met because of their size and lead-in times. Infrastructure needs cannot be met because of the phasing. Cheshire East believes that the emerging Local Plan will deliver the required numbers and that the Alsager Town Strategy informs the Local Plan.
The Town Strategy has not been objectively tested. It doesn’t balance the Brownfield sites with the “need”. During the draft plan process a majority were for Area J. It provides a contribution but it has to be tested. The Secretary of State gives Town Plans little weight. The Alsager Town Plan is unusual in that it was one of the first which allowed bottom up planning. It should be given considerable weight.It is the voice of the community
Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lymeare primarily bothered with the large sites and are happy with the level of allocation in Alsager they are concerned with Basford and White Moss. Alsager is an area of restraint and Cheshire East must listen to neighbouring authorities. When you look at the levels of “out commuting”, Stoke on Trent is destination No1 and Newcastle-u-Lyme is No 2.
There has been persistent under-delivery therefore a 20% buffer should be applied and this should be over the next 5 years (known as the Sedgefield model). There has been under-delivery over the last 5 years but in the 5 before that there was over-delivery. There is a shortfall now which should be overcome over the duration of the plan. (this is known as the Liverpool model) The numbers implied by the Sedgfield model have never been achieved so why set a target that can’t be achieved.
It is unlikely that the delivery rates suggested by the SHLAA will be met You have heard Mr Fisher’s evidence

 

 

Information Update – 05/09/2013

Rhodes Field Proposal

The timescale for objections has been extended.  We complained to the Cheshire East case officer about the problems on the Cheshire East website which have now been fixed.  We now have until 11/09/2013 to get our objections in.  This particular planning proposal is very important, please support the local residents and add your voice to the objections.  The objections page is here.

Hassall Road Appeal.

This appeal has been running in Macclesfield now for 3 days and will end at noon tomorrow.  ARAG has been present at all sessions.  Both sides have argued their cases robustly.  We will report on the appeal and supply background documents shortly.  The Hassall Road appeal is very important as it will set a precedent for all future appeals.  Currently there are 5 Alsager appeals.

White Moss Quarry – Public Consultation

The White Moss Quarry

A second public consultation on the White Moss Quarry has been announced by Renew Land.
Their brochure can be seen here.

The proposed plans will be displayed at the Civic on Wednesday the 4th of September, from 12.00 to 19.30. and a team from the developer will be present to answer any questions.

ARAG’s position on the White Moss is defined here.

The proposed number of houses, their nature, the infrastructure and the landscaping are not yet clear, it is expected that this will be clarified at the exhibition. 

Please attend and make your views known.

Objections and the Hassall Road Appeal

Objections

A number of members have reported problems with the Cheshire East Website when trying to raise objections to planning application 13/3032C.  

ARAG chased this up and the problems have now been fixed.  So, from what we have seen so far, it is now possible to raise objections on line.

This application is for 110 residential houses to the South of Close Lane, and the junction with Crewe Road. and the end date for objections is 4/9/2013, next Wednesday.  It is very important to get your objections in, as this is a very good example of a speculative Greenfield proposal, so please lets get the number of objections up.  You can place your objection and view other objections, together with the Developer’s proposal here.

If nothing happens when you try to submit your objection, first check that all mandatory fields have been entered, otherwise, keep clicking, it will take it eventually.

Appeals.

The Hassall Road appeal re-opens in Macclesfield Town Hall at 10.00 Tuesday 3/9/2013, for 3 days.  It isn’t yet clear if the Inspector will  allow Public participation, as this session is to consider the Cheshire East 5 years supply of housing.  ARAG will be present at the meeting however and we will report back on progress.  It would be beneficial to the case in general if some Alsager Residents did attend the meeting  to show interest from the Community and to make their feelings known.

Rhodes Field Objections

As previously posted, Rhodes Field, planning reference 13/3032C is a planning application for 110 residential houses to the South of Close Lane, and the junction with Crewe Road. 

This is another example of a speculative development proposal on a Greenfield site.  It is outside the settlement boundary and is therefore an intrusion into open countryside.  The Close Lane Crewe Road junction is particularly dangerous and Close Lane itself, often used as a cut through, is a narrow country lane.  This plot is also not a preferred site in the Town Plan, which proposes well planned development on Alsager’s Brownfield sites.

If you look at the home page on this site here, you will see a map of all the speculative development proposals currently threatening Alsager.  If the Developers have their way, we will get around 3,000 houses in Alsager, rather than the  1,000 allocation set by Cheshire East and adopted in the Town Plan.

Employment in Alsager is below the minimum for a Key Service Centre and Alsager’s infrastructure is already stretched to the limit.  This is why we need appropriate and well planned development on our Brownfield sites and not random development to suit Developer needs.

Objections end 4/9/3013.  Please go to the Cheshire East website and place your objections here.  You can also see  other objections from residents on that page.  A strong response from the Community makes a big difference.

Please be aware that sometimes, the Cheshire East Website appears not to respond when your objection is submitted.  Keep pressing the submit button and eventually it will take it.

Sandbach Road North Appeal

Sandbach Road Appeal.

After 9 days in Macclesfield, the Sandbach Road North Appeal has now ended.

You can see an analysis of the whole process and much more detail here.

The Inspector will make his recommendation which will be followed by a recommendation from the Secretary of State in the coming weeks.

It isn’t currently possible to judge the outcome.

Some interesting points came out of the appeal process, in particular:

  • Philip Major, the Inspector, conducted the appeal process very professionally and gave ARAG and other speakers every opportunity to air their views.  Nobody could now argue that in this appeal the opportunity to speak did not exist.  We do however need to make sure that as a Community, we maximise these opportunities in future appeals, where contributions from Residents in particular are welcome and an important input to the process.
  • Alsager itself is currently unsustainable as a Key Service Centre because of the very low level of employment opportunity ( less than the minimum requirement ) and an already overloaded infrastructure.  This begs the question: why then was Alsager allocated 1,000 houses over the next 20 years, with the subsequent allocation of numbers to particular sites being accepted as the basis for the development of the original Alsager draft Town Plan?
  • Great play was made on the fact that the Secretary of State on previous appeals, has stated that “little weight can be given to Town Plans”.  The Alsager Town plan reflects the expressed views of our Community and in particular, we only want development on the Brownfield footprint of our Brownfield sites.  It is very hard to understand how that view fits with the “Localism Act” promoted by the current government.
  • The bulk of the argument was about Cheshire East’s ability to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing and the fact that the Local Plan has not yet been finally approved. The Secretary of State (Eric Pickles) knows that all of the proposed Greenfield sites are in inappropriate places but so far has refused to offer  protection when a Local Plan does not exist.  One of the main reasons for the delayed Local Plan is, of course, that Central Government forced the creation of the Unitary Authority, Cheshire East and then made no allowance or concession for the serious disruption to the planning process that would cause.  We hope the response from Cheshire East and the evidence we submitted on behalf of the residents of Alsager will prove to be enough  to convince the Secretary of State and the Inspector that this proposal and the others should be rejected.

Information Bulletin

MMU Campaign.

We have received a large and very encouraging positive response from the ARAG Campaign leaflet.  We will keep all members posted on developments and propose actions in the coming weeks.  If you haven’t already registered your support by e-mail, please do so, we will be keeping  campaign registration open for as long as necessary.  We need to be able to demonstrate the level of strong support from the Village.

Sandbach Road North Appeal.

This week, ARAG has been attending the Sandbach Road North appeal.  You will recall that Cheshire East correctly rejected this proposal and the developer is challenging the Cheshire East decision, primarily on the basis that in its view, Cheshire East does not yet have a Local Plan and can not demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing land.  The success or otherwise of this appeal is critical to Alsager’s future as it will set a precedent for future appeals ( currently 4 outstanding: Hassall Rd, Hall Drive, Close Lane, Dunnocksfold Rd ).  This 8 day appeal ends on Thursday after which we will post our analysis, together with some background information.  Attendance from Alsager has been ARAG officers, who have presented a strong Community view to the Inspector and a limited attendance from the Town council.  Two of our Cheshire East Councillors ( Cnclrs Hough and Jones )  have also presented. Cnclr Longhurst has been in attendance on several  days and will present on Thursday.

More Greenfield Proposals.

We have already posted on the proposal to develop land to the North of Close Lane on a totally inappropriate site.  You can view that proposal here.  Please object to this proposal.

Yet another proposal has been received for Close Lane – Rhodes Field and you can view that application here.  This new proposal is for 110 residential houses to the South of Close Lane, and the junction with Crewe Road. Members are requested to place their objections before the end date. This is a very dangerous junction with Crewe Road, it is a greenfield site, outside the settlement boundary in open countryside and it is not in the Town Plan.  Alsager itself is unsustainable with its inadequate road system and with a below-minimum employment opportunity level.  This site would simply exacerbate the situation.

Information on both of these proposals can be seen on this site here.

It is very important for the Community to demonstrate that we don’t want Developers to dictate how Alsager should be developed.  We have a Town Plan and a decision making body in Cheshire East, which we pay for and they should make the decisions, not Developers.  We need to demonstrate that we want our town plan to be implemented i.e. develop our Brownfield sites and protect our Greenfields.

Please go to the Cheshire East web site and  object to these speculative building proposals in the strongest possible terms.

MMU Campaign

ARAG MMU Campaign

 You will no doubt have seen the ARAG campaign announced in a leaflet distributed to every house in Alsager.  There are also ARAG boxes around the Town Centre where supporters can respond to the leaflet.

You can read about the MMU campaign on the website here.

If you have not already done so, please register your support for our campaign as indicated on the ‘MMU campaign page’.

We want first of all to demonstrate the level of support which exists for the ARAG proposal.
You can help by registering your support and encouraging neighbours to ‘sign-on’ through the website and to register their support for the campaign.

We will keep everyone informed of progress in the coming weeks through the web site.

8 Houses to the North of Close Lane

8 Houses to the North of Close Lane

A proposal for 8 houses to the North of Close Lane has been submitted.  You can view the proposal and make objections here.

The particular site is to the North of Close Lane, where Dunnocksfold Road meets Close Lane.  It is a particularly dangerous stretch of road and it is also an intrusion into open countryside, beyond the current settlement boundary.

Although this proposal is for a small number of houses, it is contrary to the Town Plan in a number of important ways and in particular, it would be beyond the settlement boundary, into Greenfields and open countryside.

The Town Council has already objected to this proposal strongly, covering the key points and the details of their objection can be seen below.

Please register your objections on the Cheshire East Web Site.

 Town Council Objection to the proposal.

The site is not contained for development within the recently approved Alsager Town Strategy which reflects the wishes and aspirations of its residents. This Strategy clearly accepts the need for housing growth but strongly emphasises that the town’s brownfields sites should be fully utilised before greenfield sites are developed. It is the Town Council’s policy contained in the Alsager Town Strategy that sustained development should take place on existing brownfield sites and there are sufficient brownfield sites in Alsager to meet the town’s future needs. The Town Strategy is being used as an evidence base to inform Cheshire East Council’s developing Local Plan and consequently the Development Strategy endeavours to reflect the approved documents and consultation responses as far as possible. Cheshire East Council and HM Government should recognise the Alsager Town Strategy is of key importance and give weight to it as a material planning consideration with particular regard to the Localism Act, which empowers local people to have a say in the development of their local area.
a. This site is not contained in the current Draft Local Plan and furthermore it is not contained in the ‘possible additional sites proposed by developer and land interest’ recently consulted on by Cheshire East Council.

b. Cheshire East Council state that they have in excess of the required 5 years supply of land identified in the 2012 SHLAA document and this site is not contained therein.

c. The application is an intrusion into the surrounding open countryside and no development should take place on greenfield sites in Alsager or just beyond its boundary, before all brownfield sites are exhausted, to ensure that greenfield sites, which gave access to the countryside, are protected and preserved against residential development.

d. This application if developed would have 3 boundary sides facing open countryside.
e. A fundamental aim of greenfield sites is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. Their essential characteristics are openness and permanence and as such greenfield sites safeguard the countryside and prevent joined up settlements

Cheshire East Appeals – Congleton Road Sandbach and Alsager impact.

Cheshire East Appeal.

 The appeal considering a proposal to build 160 houses in Congleton Road, Sandbach ended on Wednesday 23/07/2013. The whole process was scheduled to take 8 days but was completed in 6, with 5 days in the Crewe Council offices and 1 day of site visits. At least 2 ARAG officers attended every sitting session and we have detailed notes and analysis of everything which took place. No decision has yet been made and the Inspector will publish his report to the Secretary of State in due course.  The Secretary of State will base his decision on advice from the Inspector.  

ARAG gave priority to this appeal for several reasons, the main ones being:

  •  The legal team representing the developer challenged the Cheshire East SHLAA. This means they are challenging Cheshire East’s ability to identify and deliver a 5 year supply of housing land. There was a lot of argument about the detail of this specific planning proposal and the impact it would have on Sandbach but if the Inspector determines that Cheshire East is unable to demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing, this will have a serious impact on outstanding and future Alsager appeals.
  • ARAG will want to present as strong a case as possible to the Inspector when Alsager appeals are heard. The same Inspector will hear the Sandbach Road North appeal. To this end it has been very important to assess and understand the process used to control appeals and to hear the arguments put by both sides. Very persuasive arguments have been put by both Cheshire East and the Developer legal teams and there have also been a number of excellent presentations from Sandbach Councillors and Action Groups. ARAG also presented its view, focussing on support for Cheshire East’s and the Sandbach position and the potential damage which uncontrolled development will cause to our Communities.

 Cheshire East has not as yet delivered its Local Plan. The availability of a Local Plan is essential within the terms of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) introduced by the current government. The NPPF is a complex document and it does contain ambiguities and it is open to interpretation. In the absence of a Local Plan however, the NPPF states that there must be a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. It also states that Councils must be able to demonstrate a 5 year supply of land and this is done through a document known as the SHLAA ( Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment). Cheshire East argues that its Local plan is emerging and is expected to be complete by the end of 2013 ( followed by an acceptance procedure). In the meantime, a SHLAA has been produced which demonstrates more than a 5 year supply. Saved policies from the now out of date Congleton Borough Local plan remain in force. Cheshire East argues that it can demonstrate a 5 year supply and that delivery of housing from within that supply is a function of the market. The saved Congleton Borough policies still apply and furthermore, it argues that acceptance of any proposal outside of the emerging plan would be premature as it would, by definition, shape the result of the final plan. In this case the primary reason Cheshire East gave for rejection was that the site is an incursion into open countryside.

The developer argues that the Congleton Borough Local plan is out of date, no weight can be given to the Cheshire East emerging plan because it is incomplete, the SHLAA can be given no weight for a range of detailed reasons and that the proposed development is sustainable.

The Inspector indicated that each planning appeal will consider the individual merits of each proposal.

 Cheshire East presented its case very well. The arguments were strong and they held up under cross examination. Members of the public also presented well and the Inspector certainly received an excellent representation of the views of the Community. The presentation from the legal team representing the developer was robust and it is impossible from an observer point of view to judge the legal merits of one case over the other.  

It does appear though that the main objective of the developers, represented by a barrister and legal team, is to undermine the powers of Cheshire East to reject planning applications.  Given that Cheshire East is elected by our Communities and funded with ratepayers’ money and the fact that developers are often ‘land-banking’, rather than building, it is to be hoped that the Inspector will give priority to the expressed Community view, rather than the commercial self-interest of the developers.

 We have now been informed that the next appeal will be for Alsager’s Sandbach Road North and this will take place over 6 days in Macclesfield starting 7/8/2013. The Inspector will not have made any decisions by then but we are informed that the same Inspector will run this appeal. The experience gained in this appeal will be invaluable in preparing the ARAG contribution for Sandbach Road North and the other appeals which will inevitably follow.

 It is to be hoped that other members of the Community and our Town Councillors will attend in Macclesfield to demonstrate the strength of opposition in Alsager to these speculative development proposals. The power and quality of material from Sandbach councillors and Sandbach residents groups was both well organised and very impressive.

 

 

 

SHLAA Challenge

The appeal against a Cheshire East decision to reject  a development of 160 houses in Congleton Road, Sandbach started today in Crewe and 3 ARAG officers were in attendance.  

Developers are appealing this decision and they are using the appeal to challenge the validity of Cheshire East’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).  We understand from the meeting that several developers have joined together to fully fund and mount a campaign to discredit the SHLAA.

If the developers are successful in challenging Cheshire East’s ability to deliver a 5 year housing supply, then this could have a significant damaging effect on Alsager.

Cheshire East have to demonstrate a 5 year supply in order to be able to reject inappropriate development.  

By the end of the first day of the appeal, which could run for over 8 working days, Cheshire East Planning Officers appear to be developing a robust and effective defence.  Sandbach Councillors and various Sandbach action groups also gave very strong presentations and added to that defence.

ARAG will present to the appeal in the coming days to support our Sandbach neighbours and to add our voice to the defence of the SHLAA.   The result of this appeal will be very relevant to the several outstanding Alsager appeals, for example, Hassall Road, Dunnocksfold Road and Sandbach Road North.  

MMU – Update on the schedule and approach

ARAG has received a letter from DTZ, MMU’s development consultant. You can view its contents here.

 The letter suggests a positive shift in MMU’s position brought on by the feedback received from their initial consultations with Residents.

 The letter indicates that a Sports Hub will be included in the next MMU proposal but there is no indication of the proposed level or location of housing on the site. This needs to be much more than a spruce up of the Leisure Centre and the housing level needs to be appropriate.

 Although there is no mention in the letter of: education provision, which buildings will be saved, saving all the Sports Fields, provision for the elderly, limiting the number of houses to no more than 300 on the Brownfield footprint or community facilities, this does seem to be a positive move on MMU’s behalf.

 The implications of a phased approach are unclear but this detail will become clearer when DTZ carry out the next round of public consultations before a planning proposal around Spring 2014.

 ARAG will continue to campaign for the best possible outcome for Alsager Residents.

 

ARAG Meeting – 4/7/2013.

An ARAG meeting of around 35 members who had requested to meet with us was held in the Civic on Thursday 4/7/2013.

 The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current situation with the MMU site and ARAG’s proposals, including the establishment of a University Technical College (UTC).

 There was very strong support in the meeting for the ideas of a UTC in Alsager and an ARAG public pressure campaign focussed on getting the best for Alsager on the MMU site. This means a fully funded solution, retaining all of the Sports fields, building only within the footprint of the current buildings, retaining the best buildings ( erected with public money ) and provision of a well designed mixed use for the site

ARAG has also received a large number of messages of support from residents which mean that we have to take our campaign to a higher level. This will involve some expenditure and we will be posting on funding in the near future.

 This ARAG campaign will be focussed on generating public pressure both locally and nationally. We are a non-political organisation but these decisions are being made by politicians. As we all know, pressure works, especially if it means votes.

 We want to know what the community wants:

  • Does the Community support a UTC in Alsager?
  • Does the Community want ARAG to campaign on its behalf?

 

Although ARAG has substantial support through its Website and Facebook presence and we have received hundreds of encouraging messages, in this campaign, we want to take member recruitment to a new and effective, co-ordinated level.

 As a registered member, you can really help to get the ball rolling by making sure that your friends and neighbours are aware of the organisation and by asking them to register on the site to receive the posts we produce. We want to communicate with as wide an audience as possible

Whatever happens on the MMU site will affect the whole community not just those who live near it. The UTC would contribute to the identity of the Town and benefit hundreds of parents and young people.

 We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity for Alsager and we want to make sure that everyone has a good appreciation of what they could be losing if we don’t act together as a community. Please talk, e-mail, facebook and do everything you can to reach the parts of Alsager that haven’t yet been reached.

 As a final point of interest, the government has recently announced new Technical Qualifications and strong support for UTCs as this press release suggests.

 Today the Government approved a further 15 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) to open across the country over the next two years. This brings the total number of UTCs to 34.

 For the past four years, the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDT) has been working with the Department for Education, local employers, universities and further education colleges to develop a national network of UTCs.

 Lord Kenneth Baker, Chairman of BDT, said:

 “The Coalition Government continues to show its commitment to these new colleges for 14-19 year olds by expanding the national network. I am delighted that it has all party support and so many people right across the country want to open UTCs.

 Companies up and down the country who need highly skilled technicians and engineers support UTCs which bind universities and industry into their establishment, governance and curriculum design. UTCs will help our economic growth. Almost 300 companies are supporting these 34 UTCs – an outstanding industrial commitment.

 We will continue to develop more UTCs to be announced later this year.”

 You can see  more details, and reasons why it would be perverse not to develop a UTC in Alsager on the MMU campus here. 

 

 

 

 

Rectory Farm – Church Lawton

Another planning application has been received for Rectory Farm in Church Lawton, planning reference 13/2136c.

The Rectory Farm Action Group has requested that our members support their campaign by objecting to this proposal.

Unfortunately all objections have to be in by the end of 4/7/2013.

There are currently a small number of objections.  Some good reference ones on the Cheshire East website are here and here.

If you wish to raise an objection, you can access the Cheshire East site here and click on ‘Comment on this application’

NPPF petition

NPPF – Petition

We have posted on this subject previously.  Protect Congleton – Civic Society has organised a petition asking the government to amend its National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) to remove the presumption to build in favour of developers and to allow Local Authorities, such as Cheshire East, time to get their Local Plans in place.

If you have not already done so, please support this petition.  The NPPF has created many problems and is the root cause of environmental damage across the country, including our own area.  You can read all about it and access the petition here 

 

MMU – Fiona Bruce Correspondence.

ARAG has been in regular contact with Fiona Bruce MP and there have been a number of letters between us.

We wrote to Fiona Bruce on 10/5/2013 explaining the Town Council and Cheshire East reactions to the ARAG proposal for a University Technical College. We also expressed our concerns about the future of the MMU campus. You can see that letter here.

Fiona Bruce replied on the 12th of June to say that although she has enthusiastically championed the ARAG proposal for an Alsager UTC, Cheshire East only intend to consider a UTC in Crewe. You can see that letter here.

A number of points from our previous letter were not answered and also as Staffordshire University are still interested in working with a UTC in South Cheshire, we don’t consider the matter closed. You can view that letter here.

 

ARAG has received substantial feedback from residents about the UTC proposal and also about the MMU site in general. In the coming weeks, we will make all residents fully aware of the situation so that they can have their say.

An encouraging response!

We would like to thank residents very much for the encouraging and supportive response, so far, to our post of 5th June ‘Developing the MMU’ and for the many offers of help with the cost of the proposed mailshot to all Alsager households.

 

Developing the MMU site

Developing the MMU site

The ARAG proposal for the development of an Alsager University Technical College (UTC) on the MMU site, is one way to achieve the wide-ranging, mixed use, lifelong health and well-being, community facilities Alsager has outlined in its Town Plan and Cheshire East has adopted in its Local Plan. It would also create for our young people the opportunities that will be necessary as a result of the raising of the school leaving age. This proposal would also strictly restrict new housing to 300 on the Brownfield footprint of the site.

The Town Council however has decided that it is not appropriate for it to support this proposal and Cheshire East appears to be focussed on providing a UTC in Crewe and not maximising the potential of the MMU site for Alsager. ARAG has received a good number of letters and emails from residents continuing to support our proposal and we do not accept that the Town Council’s feeble bureaucratic response should determine our approach to the significant development of the MMU site. What happens to this site is important for the whole community and the reputation of the Town as a good place to live, work and as providing great opportunities for both young people and the elderly

We believe that the outcome on the MMU site is closely related to Alsager’s identity and sense of community. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring a substantial set of high quality community facilities to Alsager.

We ask the question ‘who from our elected representatives is providing the vision, leadership and drive to make sure that Alsager gets what it wants and not the ‘maximised return on its Alsager assets’ the MMU wants?’. This quote is taken from a letter received from the MMU responding to our request for a meeting to consider alternatives. It said ‘MMU has spent a lot of money on its move to Crewe and it now wants to maximise the return on the sale of its Alsager assets’.

We note that MMU makes no reference to the ethical issues regarding the very substantial public money that it has received to create, maintain and transfer specialist facilities to Crewe.

ARAG believes that:

  • all of the Sports Fields should be retained
  • those buildings which provide the greatest opportunity for community use, erected at great public expense, should be retained
  • no more than 300 houses should be built
  • any housing should be strictly within the Brownfield footprint of the site.

We believe that the MMU site should provide:

  • a Sports Hub,
  • comprehensive recreational facilities,
  • a residential village for the elderly
  • and lifelong educational and health provision.

To be clear, we are looking at something that will last for many years so the detail of facilities and the demand for them will evolve and change. Demolishing a building or destroying a playing field for housing means that facility is lost for all purposes for ever. We would not be satisfied with a plan which just retains some of the pitches based on current demand or one which loses fields and smartens up the Leisure Centre. An expanding population will require greater leisure and recreation provision and we would like to see a much wider vision for the site.

One point which is worth stressing is that the MMU site was gifted to Manchester in the 1990s. The site had been constructed with taxpayers’ money and the subsequent high quality sports fields and facilities were also constructed and maintained with public money. MMU now wants to maximise its return on this publicly funded site. We believe that there is a strong moral case to retain facilities and that the Alsager community should benefit in the ways described.

This is our view, which has been supported by a number of ARAG members but we need to know that it is a view shared by a majority in Alsager. To that end, we intend to initiate a campaign to make the situation clear to all residents, request feedback and ask them to join the campaign and be active. We believe that if we don’t act now, we will lose this opportunity for ever.

This will involve some expense and we would therefore ask you to respond to the following questions through the website:

  1. Do you agree with ARAG’s vision for the future of the MMU site?

Please let us know if you have any additional thoughts or ideas.

  1. Do you agree that a campaign to involve all Alsager residents is a good idea?

Please feedback any additional thoughts or ideas you might have.

  1. Would you be willing to make a small contribution to campaign costs?

If so, please indicate that you would support ARAG.

 

 

Town Council Meeting and UTC Decision

The Town Council decided at their meeting on 14/5/2013 that they could not support the ARAG proposal for the MMU site through development of a University Technical College (UTC). The reasons given were that it was ‘inappropriate’ and that any such proposal should come from the ‘Education Community’.

ARAG has received numerous messages from Residents expressing their disappointment with this outcome and because of that, Councillor Derek Longhurst has produced a paper which documents the whole process, including the Town Council Meeting. That paper can be viewed here . It is an extremely useful paper which explains a lot.

The Town Council was simply being asked to provide support in principle for a UTC at this stage. Without Town Council Support, it is highly unlikely that there will be any Cheshire East or Political support. Furthermore, Staffordshire University which had expressed an interest and shown commitment to a UTC in Alsager, would obviously need Cheshire East support to start the project. Without support from the Town Council, ARAG is unable to progress this proposal any further.

ARAG remains focused on protecting our Greenfields from speculative development proposals. ARAG is also committed to realising the aspirations for the MMU stated in the Alsager Town Plan:

  • no more than 300 dwellings on the Brownfield element of the site.
  • a Sports Hub.
  • retention of all of the Sports Fields and the best publicly funded Buildings.
  • a mixed use of the site.
  • residential housing for the elderly/ community village
  • benefit for Alsager residents; health, leisure, lifelong learning.

ARAG feels that it is essential to maximise the input we have at our disposal to represent the views of Alsager Residents at both the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board and subsequently at appeals boards. Strength of feeling is often gauged by Inspectors and others not only by the arguments presented but also by demonstrating wide participation from the Community, The Town Council and Cheshire East Councillors. We recognise that some of our elected members have a good record of representation and some, a larger group are never seen.

Dunnocksfold Road – Photo call.

Further to our previous post on the subject, there will be an Alsager Chronicle photo session for residents and neighbours of Dunnocksfold Road on Tuesday 28th at 4 pm.  Please can we have a good turnout by the field to support the decision to reject this proposal  and demonstrate that we don’t want any more speculative Housing proposals.

Dunnocksfold Road Photo Call

Following the successful refusal of the Jones Homes planning application last Wednesday, there is an Alsager Chronicle photo call for residents and neighbours of Dunnocksfold Road on Tuesday 28th at 4 pm. Please meet opposite the field gate.

Strategic Planning Board – Dunnocksfold Road Decision.

Strategic Planning Board – Dunnocksfold Road Decision.

The case against the Jones Homes Dunnocksfold Road building proposal was well presented at yesterday’s Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board meeting in Crewe, with a number of strong contributions.

The meeting itself was chaired by Councillor Derek Hough who also, following public participation, opened and steered the debate on the Dunnocksfold Road site very constructively.

Councillor Rod Fletcher, one of our Cheshire East councillors made a valuable contribution and gave a good presentation about Alsager and the site location arguing in favour of the planning officer’s recommendation of refusal. Strong and relevant points were also made by Hon. Alderman Derek Bould, the ARAG president and Chris Peake who lives close to the proposed site.

ARAG argued that this proposal is outside the Local and Town plan, the traffic on Dunnocksfold Road is very dangerous and mustn’t be exacerbated, the agricultural land classification is in dispute and the Hedgerow is important and therefore another reason for refusal. 

The Board unanimously refused the proposal on the grounds that Cheshire East already has a 5 year supply, this site is not in the Town or the Local Plan and it intrudes into open countryside, in contravention with plan policies.

Following the public contributions and the debate, we understand that the Board when giving reasons for refusal, will point out that there is strong public concern over dangerous traffic, loss of hedgerow and the disputed agricultural field classification.

The developer did not present any evidence to support their application but they did take the opportunity to inform the Strategic Planning Board it would be their intention to appeal any refusal. This is a significant concern as it demonstrates the low level of importance placed by the developer on this phase of the democratic planning process.

We feel that it is very important at this stage of the planning process that every opportunity is taken to present the case which reflects the opinion of local residents. It is disappointing that although Rod Fletcher ably presented the Alsager case as a Cheshire East Councillor and the meeting was well attended by ARAG members who also contributed, the Town Council, with its wide range of planning experience did not take advantage of the prescribed presentation slot available to them to voice their concerns.

We must emphasise, having experienced the Inspector’s meeting on the recent Hassall Road appeal, that it is very important to make sure we are as well represented as possible in these meetings.

This is not the end of the matter, as it is highly likely the developer will appeal the decision, as has been the case in most of the other recent refusals. However, it was a very good start and the fight goes on.

ARAG UTC Proposal -Town Council Meeting

ARAG UTC Proposal -Town Council Meeting

The Alsager Town Council met on Tuesday 14/05/2013, one of the items on the Agenda was their response to the ARAG proposal for a University Technical College(UTC). The proposal details can be seen here

At the start of the ‘debate’ and before any discussion, the following motion was proposed.

  • Alsager Town Council adheres to the Alsager Town Strategy and the Brief for the MMU site contained therein
  • The case for or against the establishment of a UTC needs to be resolved within the Education Community. At this stage it would be inappropriate for the Town Council to endorse any specific proposal

  • Alsager Town Council express clear support for the retention of the sports pitches and sports facilities on the site

A much more constructive alternative proposed motion was discussed during the meeting. The original motion was voted through however just as this alternative version was being discussed positively and this is now the Town Council position. This bureaucratic tactic then blocked any further discussion.

Residents will be interested to know that although letters of support from Residents had been received by the Town Council, no reference was made by the supporters of this motion to them or the level of support which we know they received. So much for “listening to the community all the time”.

Something as complex as establishing a University Technical College, involving: a University, the School, Major Business partners, Cheshire East, Central Government and funding bodies as it does, will clearly not be resolved by a nebulous ‘Education Community’. Such an exercise needs clear, strong leadership and commitment from elected responsible bodies.

It also needs to be made clear that the ARAG proposal was directed at achieving the main objectives for the MMU site in the Town plan: Mixed use, educational provision, retaining the sports fields, building within the Brownfield footprint, provision of a retirement village and achieving the required level of housing. This argument was put to the Town Council by the recently-elected independent Councillor.

When ARAG originally presented its proposal to the Town Council, Councillor David Brown, the deputy leader of Cheshire East Council was present. He was positive about the ideas but said ‘you have to let me know what you want’. This insipid response from the Town Council sends a clear message back to him and others that the Alsager Town Council does not want a University Technical College or the benefits one would bring to the community and in particular to the young people in our Town. It similarly sends a clear message to residents looking to improve our Town.

Far from being ‘inappropriate for the Town Council to endorse a particular proposal’ ARAG believes that this is exactly where the Town Council should be supporting constructive initiatives and providing some leadership. It is a disappointing outcome that such an important opportunity is not encouraged and supported by the Town Council. Without that support it is unlikely that either Cheshire East or our MP will support it. There will eventually be one or two UTCs in the area but this decision, taken for reasons best understood by the Town Council themselves, means that Alsager will not be home to one of them.

Residents, and in particular parents of pupils in our schools may wish to reflect upon the implications this will have for them at a time when school leaving age will rise for all.

We suggest that it might be appropriate to ask your elected representative what plans they have and are prepared to work on for the young people of Alsager in this environment, having taken this decision.

 

 

Important Town Council Meeting – 23/5/2013

A Town Council Planning Committee meeting will be held on Thursday 23 May 2013 at 5.00pm in the Civic Centre. There will be a public participation period and there are two significant items on the agenda for Alsager residents:
 
  • Outline Planning Application for Close Lane
  • Consideration of the Cheshire East Consultation on additional sites that have been proposed for potential development: For Alsager the two sites to be considered are: Sandbach Road North; White Moss Quarry.
It is particularly important that residents come to this meeting and ensure that your views are fully expressed so that they may inform the Town Council debate regarding these issues.

Town Council meeting – University Technical College

As members are aware, ARAG made a presentation to the Town Council of its ideas for an Alsager University Technical College (UTC) to benefit Alsager children,  to achieve the desired ‘mixed use’ of the MMU site and to retain the sports facilities and playing fields. The outline proposal can be viewed here.

On Tuesday 14th May at 7.15 in the Alsager Institute, the Town Council will meet and the UTC idea is on the agenda.  This meeting is open to the public and there is a public participation period where people can express their points of view.

There is no doubt that achieving such an ambitious project for Alsager would be very difficult and that there are lots of hurdles to overcome but it is to be hoped that the conclusions of the Town Council will be positive and  enable the best and most appropriate use of the MMU site for residents.

Local Government Ombudsman Upholds complaint against Cheshire East

Cheshire East Council misled the public on a planning application to change the use of some agricultural land.

report by the Local Government Ombudsman has upheld a complaint that Cheshire East withheld important information to the public during the consultation period – but later made it available on its website and backdated it.

Complaints were raised by several Alsager residents about a planning application on the White Moss.  They persevered and put in a tremendous amount of work to achieve this outcome. 

Well done!

The report which can be viewed here raises a number of serious concerns which Cheshire East have said they will address.

Close Lane – Extension

The cut off date for Close Lane objections is now 24/05/2013.  We have been informed by the Case Officer that this is so that the Town Council can consider its reply and respond.

Cheshire East are having problems with the backlog of Internet objections but there are a significant number of objections in but not yet visible. The Close Lane Residents Group have  done an excellent job in collecting and submitting a large number of written objections which will be scanned in over the next few days.

If you still haven’t placed your objection, please support the Close Lane residents and add to the voices objecting to this proposal here.

Some members have reported problems with the Cheshire East web site which doesn’t always allow you to submit your objection.  If this happens, first of all make sure that all of the mandatory fields have been entered then if you wait and continue to click, it eventually works.

Petition – Amend the NPPF

Protect Congleton – Civic Society has started an important  petition. 

The NPPF is causing significant problems for communities across the country by allowing unplanned building in inappropriate places. Please support our neighbours in Congleton and sign their petition as described below. 

We have organised a petition on the Government Petition website that is asking the Government to amend its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to remove the presumption to build in favour of developers and allow Local Authorities (such as Cheshire East) more time to get their Local Plans in place.  The presumption to build is one of the factors that is making it very easy for developers to successfully appeal planning applications that have been refused by a Local Authority.

 We would really appreciate your support with this petition and you can view and sign the petition by clicking the link below, which will take you to the Petition website:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49495

Follow the instructions on the website to sign the petition, which should take you less than a minute (and please ask everyone in your household who is supportive to sign the petition).  Please note that you will receive an email after signing the petition and you will need to click the link provided in the email to complete the signing process.

 

To obtain as many signatures as possible it would be very helpful if you would consider forwarding this mail onto friends, family and other contacts.  If each of us forwards the mail to, say, ten people and ask them to do likewise it could generate lots of signatures.  You can view a full copy of the petition on our website: Copy of Petition.

 

Many thanks in anticipation of your support.

 

Close Lane – Please Place Objections

Time is running out for Residents to place their objections on the Close Lane development building proposal and the number of objections needs to be much higher.

ARAG members need to demonstrate that they do not want speculative proposals or unwanted housing on our Greenfield sites.  Please place your objections on the Cheshire East Website here and support the Close Lane Action Group.  It is really important that Residents express their views. 

All objections must be in by the 8th of May.  Please help Alsager to fight this off by objecting before then.

We have posted on this proposal before and have raised the following points:

  • Alsager has a housing allocation of 1,000 houses over the next 20 years and the adopted Town Plan identifies the appropriate sites for housing.  It also states that the Alsager strategy is for Brownfield before Green.  This speculative proposal identifies  a Greenfield site which is not a part of the Alsager Town Plan.
  • Close Lane is a dangerous badly maintained country Lane .  This road can be quite busy and it is used by pedestrians,  walkers, and children.  It is very narrow in parts and in many places is without a footpath.  Placing any additional traffic on this road would be irresponsble .
  • Planning permission has already been granted for the Twyfords site, Crewe Road and a proposal for the MMU site  is imminent.  As a minimum, assuming planning permission will be granted for the MMU, this means that over 70% of Alsager’s planning allocation will have been approved in the first year, with 19 years to go.
  • Given the numbers above and the fact that Alsager’s infrastructure is clearly struggling, any additional unplanned development should be rejected.
  • This Greenfield site is open countryside with plenty of active wildlife and it is part of the green buffer between Close Lane and the Motorway.  It should remain as such.

You can object to this proposal here.  

By visiting the Cheshire East website, you can read all other objections and the submissions of the developer. Simply scroll down to the section Planning Documents and then click on the Application number column in the row that interests you.

The previous post on Close Lane is here
 

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

Close Lane – Objections and comments needed.

Close Lane Development Proposal.

Background

The Muller Property Group has submitted a proposal to build 76 family houses and 56 retirement dwellings on a Greenfield site off Close Lane, reference 13/1305N.

Alsager, through its adopted Town Plan, is committed to building 1,000 houses in the next 20 years, which represents 50 houses per annum.

The Alsager Strategy is to build on Brownfield sites before any Greenfield sites are used.

Planning permission in Alsager has already been given for the Twyfords site and housing along Crewe Road, which represents at least 400 houses. This covers the building allocation in Alsager for the next 8 years.

A proposal to build on the MMU campus site, another Brownfield site, is imminent and this represents at least another 300 houses, which means that planning permission for at least 70% of Alsager’s allocation for the next 20 years will have been delivered in the first year.

It is very important for Alsager that building takes place according to the Town Plan. Failure to do that will mean that uncontrolled and unplanned building will take place and that Alsager’s infractructure, already under serious strain, will become even more inadequate.

Specific Issues

This proposal does not conform with the Town Plan. It is Greenfield and not Brown and it is not identified as a suitable site in either the Town Plan or Cheshire East’s Local Plan.

Close Lane is narrow, dangerous and poorly maintained. It is a country lane, regularly used by walkers and residents, without footpaths in places.

The road is often used as a cut through, motorists and large vehicles regularly speed and in particular, the ‘pinch points’ are a hazard to both motorists and pedestrians alike. Anything which increases traffic on Close Lane would be irresponsible and dangerous.

Clearly building on this Greenfield site would remove habitat and damage the substantial wildlife in the area.

The developer’s arguments ( see below for sources ) are based on what the developer believes it can sell now rather than the stated needs and aspirations of the Alsager community.

We will post further details on the web site as they emerge but one final point to make is that the residents of Close Lane and nearby areas do not want this development. All of the provision outlined in the proposal is to be provided on the MMU campus. The Close Lane Residents need other Alsager Residents to make their views known and support their objection campaign. Lets stick to the Town Plan and the Cheshire East Local Plan and ask those bodies ( Town Council and Cheshire East ) to support their own strategies by soundly rejecting this proposal.

Objections.

Residents can object to this proposal on the Cheshire East website, which can be found here.

Although letters to Fiona Bruce and your Town Councillors are useful, this is the one most important thing to do for this proposal, let the Cheshire East Planning Department know what you feel.

The volume of objections carries significant weight in the planning process.

By visiting the Cheshire East website, you can read all other objections and the submissions of the developer. Simply scroll down to the section Planning Documents and then click on the Application number column in the row that interests you.

To submit your comments / objections , click on the yellow panel labelled ‘ comment on this application’.

 

Please support our Town and Close Lane Residents by objecting to this development

Planning News and Issues

Crewe Road.

Outline planning approval has already been granted for 65 houses off Crewe Road.  The developer has now submitted a proposal ref 13/1210C which you can view here for detailed planning permission.  As outline permission has already been granted objections can probably only influence the conditions placed on the development.  The original proposal for outline permission can be viewed here.

Land West of Close Lane

A proposal for outline planning permission has been submitted for development just off Close Lane and opposite Spencer Close.  It is planning reference 13/1305N and it can be viewed here.  Residents can also lodge their objections there as well. Although listed in the Haslington Parish, this application is on the boundary of Alsager and will be serviced by Alsager as its key service centre.  This speculative development is inconsistent with the adopted Town Plan, in that it is on a greenfield site, it isn’t a preferred site and local residents  have already been raising objections.  There will be more information on this objection process in coming weeks.

Sandbach Road North

This application was refused by Cheshire East but now the developer has made an appeal to the Secretary Of State.  A date and venue for the appeal has not yet been given.

The planning appeal form can be seen here, the developer’s argument can be seen here and the case documentation for the application reference 12/4872C can be seen here.

Much of the developer’s argument is based on whether or not Cheshire East can demonstrate a 5 year supply of building land.  Cheshire East do this in their SHLAA document and the developer is using this development as a vehicle to challenge the SHLAA.  It would be very difficult if not impossible to defend this site and in fact any proposal in Cheshire East if the developers win their argument.  The Hassall Road site, is being treated  in the same way by developers and its final appeal meeting should take place at the end of May.

Cheshire East are committed to defending this situation and it is to be hoped that through the validity of their SHLAA document they can stop speculative building proposals in totally inappropriate places.  The nature of the Developers’ arguments illustrate the total disregard they have for stated community aspirations or for the wishes of the Councils that represent them.  They simply want to build whether a community wants it or not.

Comments on the appeal can be made in triplicate to the Secretary Planning Inspectorate Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN.  You can view ‘a Guide to Taking Part in Planning Appeals’ here.

MMU Proposal – Town Council Response

Following the ARAG presentation to the Town Council we have received the following response.

Further to your letter dated 8th April 2013 to the Chairman of Alsager Town Council.

As you are aware Alsager Town Council are currently discussing the option of a University Technical College on the MMU site as detailed in the proposals put forward by Professor Derek Longhurst.

There will be an item  on the Town Council Agenda for its meeting on 14th May 2013, where this matter will be discussed and a response to your letter will be agreed.

You can view the background material here.

There has been a lot of very positive support for this proposal from our members and we believe that this proposal is a unique opportunity for Alsager.  We therefore recommend that members contact their councillors and Fiona Bruce to express their points of view.

We will post information nearer the date to keep everyone informed on venue and time.  

Town Council election – Derek Longhurst.

Derek Longhurst

Residents in the Central Ward of Alsager will have the opportunity to vote for a new Town Councillor on Thursday 18th April 2013. Two candidates are standing for election, one Independent ( Derek Longhurst ) and one Labour ( Trevor Newbould )

Alsager Residents Action Group ( ARAG ) is none political and has members of every political persuasion and our position is clearly stated in our Aims and Objectives. We are an independent residents group that is not affiliated to any Political Party or other organisation.

Derek Longhurst, the Independent candidate has written to ARAG and asked if we would support him to become a member of Alsager Town Council, his letter is available by clicking here.

Because he is not linked to a political party, and has the same stated overall aims as ARAG, we believe it is entirely appropriate for ARAG to support his candidacy. However, there will not be any sponsorship from ARAG and therefore no funding support for his campaign; but naturally individual residents are free to assist in any way that they feel is appropriate if they wish.

Our president, Hon Alderman Derek Bould, is a personal friend of Professor Longhurst and, on an individual basis, has written a supporting testimonial which can be viewed here.

 

The MMU Proposal – Making It Happen

The MMU Proposal

Members will recall that ARAG has developed a proposal to create a University Technical College in Alsager on the MMU site. Our proposal is in line with both the Town Plan and the Cheshire East Local Plan in proposing mixed use. Consequently, the proposal allows for a fair and reasonable level of residential building on the brownfield footprint of the site in a way that preserves the sports facilities. Demanding significantly higher levels of such residential building than is indicated in the adopted Town Plan represents corporate greed prepared to sacrifice the sports and other facilities at the expense of the community, especially it’s younger people.

The details can be read here:

Also some additional information on UTCs is given at the end of this post.

ARAG presented these ideas to the Town Council at a meeting on Wednesday 3/4/2013, together with Steve Wade who represents the Alsager Sports and Recreation Association and their campaign to protect the Sports facilities of the MMU. The response from the Town Council was mixed but generally positive towards the ARAG proposal.

Councillor David Brown was also present at the meeting and he requested that the Town Council gets back to him to let him know what it wants him to do.

While there is clearly a lot of detail to be sorted out and a lot of work to be done, ARAG believes that this proposal is the only current proposal which will retain the sports fields and recently constructed buildings. ARAG also believes that it is the only strategy which will achieve the stated aspirations of the Town Council.

We think it is very important for residents to express their views to their elected Town Councillors. In this way, when the Council does meet, it will have an informed view of Community aspirations.

DTZ wants to destroy these facilities and build 500+ houses. This is a one off opportunity to resist that commercial pressure and bring something really worthwhile to Alsager.

Please contact your councillors so that they can take your views into account.

Telephone contact details for the Alsager Councillors can be found here:

You can e-mail the Town Council at:

clerk@alsagertowncouncil.org.uk

and request that the mail is passed onto your councillor and taken into account in their deliberations. Town Council support is essential for the success of this proposal.

David Brown, the Deputy leader of Cheshire East has been supportive of the proposal and is also essential to the success of this proposal.  He can be contacted at:

david.brown@cheshireeast.gov.uk

Fiona Bruce, our MP has already given consistent public support to this proposal.

Additional Information about the UTC.

UTCs are funded by the Government (Department for Education) and supported by the Baker Dearing Charitable Foundation. Given the previous level of public investment in this site, there is a clear case to be made for that investment to be ‘recovered’ for the public purse.

The University Technical College (UTC) would be a collaborative educational initiative involving a University and Alsager School. It is very important to stress that the purpose of a UTC in Alsager is not to compete with existing provision but to complement and enhance it. The kind of vocational programmes on offer would allow additional choices to be made by young people in the 14-19 age range as well as providing work experience with major employers in the sub-region. The UTC would have a distinctive identity in relation to professions in engineering and new digital technologies.

The proposal could also draw in other educational partners so that some of the programmes could be offered at other sites such as, for instance, South Cheshire College of Further Education. It is known that there is some interest at CheshireEast Council in the establishment of a UTC for the region; the question, therefore, for the Town Council and others to address is whether this is established in Alsager or elsewhere? If the latter, it could not be guaranteed that the UTC would not provide competition for existing educational provision in the region.

A clear benefit for the Town and the community is that the infrastructure necessary for the UTC would provide the basis upon which the sports facilities could be both retained and managed for community use. while also allowing the School to expand its provision and offer different kinds of programmes of study.

It is not implied that the process of establishing a UTC in Alsager would be a simple matter. It will require political will and a commitment to open and transparent consultation with all potential partners in the enterprise in order to make it happen. The point that needs to be addressed by those who are opposed to the proposal is: What alternative do you have to offer that will lead to the preservation of the sports facilities on the MMU that have cost the taxpayer milions of pounds? And once the sports fields and buildings have gone they will not be replaced. This is a one-off chance to do something bold and ambitious for Alsager and its community.

 

Hassall Road Planning Appeal Meeting

Hassall Road Planning Appeal.

The planning appeal for the Hassall Road proposal by Seddons for 30 houses was held in Crewe on Wednesday 3/4/2013. Cheshire East had previously rejected this proposal primarily on the grounds of “intrusion into the landscape.”

The developer was represented by a barrister and legal team and Cheshire East was also represented by a barrister and officers. Alsager Residents, ARAG Oficers and two of our Cheshire East Councillor part time were also present and contributed to the discussions.

It was clear from the level of representation and the small size of the development that this appeal was about much more than just the building proposal itself. The majority of attendees were also developers. The developers are challenging the Cheshire East Development plan and in particular the basis upon which the housing allocation across the whole of Cheshire East is calculated. The key document is the SHLAA, (Strategic Land Housing Availability Assessment) a huge document, which defines where housing land will be found in Cheshire East over the next 20 years. They have effectively hi-jacked this small Alsager appeal to force a decision on the SHLAA which will have an impact on all building decisions in Cheshire East, even though the 5 year supply was not a reason given by Cheshire East for rejection of this proposal.

Both sets of barristers were arguing for a postponement of the meeting and were strongly supported by ARAG but the Inspector ruled that he would hear the appeal and reconvene, probably towards the end of May, to hear the arguments about the validity of the SHLAA. The main reason for delaying the meeting was that the arguments from the developer had only been received the previous week.  This isn’t the best news but it at least gives Cheshire East and others time to prepare their case for the next stage of this appeal and it is much better than the Inspector accepting the appeal.

The barristers on both sides argued about the technical reasons for the Cheshire East rejection decision. There was significant contribution from the floor, explaining some history of the site which tried to shift the argument away from the dry technical issues to the impact this decision would have on the community. The main difficulty in these arguments is that the Inspector is obliged only to consider an application in isolation and will not consider the impact on the strategic planning of an area. It is clear that common sense or the views of the community are of little importance in these arguments and certainly the Developers have no interest in the needs and stated aspirations of the community.

A site visit took place in the afternoon joined by two members of ARAG and two local residents. The inspector appeared very approachable and receptive of comments addressed to him.

In contradiction to the opinions of the ‘experts’ for the developers, it was very obvious that the whole area is indeed ‘open countryside’. The Inspector could not fail to have seen the same thing and to have heard the comments made by the locals. Back on the road, the Inspector took note of the poor bus service and of the worn condition of the speed humps which are an indication of the amount of traffic. He actually said that the road was quite busy considering that the schools are on holiday and was informed that no one has ever undertaken a proper traffic survey. The Inspector was also surprised to learn how much use was still being made of the sports facilities on the MMU site and the fact that children from Pikemere School have to cross this busy road to use those facilities (the tennis courts). He was also told about the number of childrens’ football teams (at least 19) using the pitches as well as the students and adults. He was given a brief summary of the current, alternative, (ARAG’s) proposals for the development of the MMU site to make the point that there are other, more sustainable, developments in the pipeline.

If Seddons are successful in their attempts to undermine the SHLAA document, it will have a very damaging effect on Cheshire East as a whole and Alsager in particular. We would no longer be able to argue that there is a 5 year supply and therefore developers can have building applications passed simply on the argument of ‘no 5 year supply’.  We very much hope therefore that Cheshire East, will be successful in its defence of this case.

The recently introduced legislation ( the National Policy Planning Framework) insists that if a 5 year supply of building land can not be proven then priority must be given to the developer.

Hassall Road Planning Appeal

The recent application by Seddons to build 30 homes on Hassall Road in Alsager was refused and the developers lodged an appeal. The appeal hearing will take place at the Municipal Offices in Crewe on Wednesday 3rd April at 10 a.m. Clearly, the outcome of this appeal will have implications for other planning applications which have also been refused or are awaiting a decision – or have not yet been registered – especially if the developers win.

Alsager residents are strongly urged to attend if they possibly can, to show their support for the decision to protect one of many greenfield sites which have been targeted by speculative developers hoping to exploit loopholes and weaknesses in current legislation.

 

 

 

White Moss Quarry Update

The White Moss Quarry

Introduction

If the proposed development of 700 to 1000 houses on the White Moss Quarry site goes ahead it will have a very significant effect on Alsager’s infrastructure (its schools, medical services, roads, shops etc) and it must be taken into account in Cheshire East’s Local Plan.

Because this proposal is so recent the site was not considered for housing in the Draft Development Strategy and it was therefore necessary to include a reference about its impact in Alsager Town Council’s formal response to Cheshire East’s consultation process.

ARAG drew attention to this issue and the Town Council arranged for it to be considered at its Planning and Community Services Committee meeting.

The Alsager Town Council minutes show the following:

At the meeting of the Town Council’s Planning and Community Services Committee held on Tuesday 26th February 2013 the following addendum to the Alsager Town Council’s Consultation response dated 20th February 2013 was unanimously agreed:

 “ As the Town Council has expressed serious concern on Page 1 of its response on the impact on Alsager of the proposed new settlement at Barthomley, then the Town Council contend that there is an equally clear case for formal consideration of such a proposal for White Moss Quarry on the impact on Alsager”

This council meeting was well attended by ARAG members and others and there was a good contribution from the floor. The outcome was consistent with ARAG’s request to the Town Council and this is an excellent example of “working together”.

Background.

The White Moss Quarry, Radway Green is a large site on the boundary of Alsager and Haslington. It is situated off the Crewe Road, behind the garden centre, running between the motorway, Nursery Lane and Close Lane.

A 20 year quarrying licence was granted to Beecroft Peat Products in 1987 to extract peat and underlying sand, this licence came with conditions and a commitment to a restoration plan. The documentation of these arrangements can be found on the Cheshire East website here.

The restoration plan identified ‘two shallow landscaped lakes of natural interest used for recreation and fishing together with a larger deep water lake which will be used for leisure purposes ( e.g. wind surfing, sailing etc. )’. There was also a comprehensive re-seeding and planting programme.

20 years later, the restoration plan has not been implemented as planned and a new licence has now been granted for another 20 years.

Over the years, residents adjacent to the White Moss Quarry have complained about the noise, dust and intrusion of the quarrying operations and that the licence conditions have not been met. A number of residents do feel that their views and complaints have been consistently ignored.

In recent weeks, a proposal to build houses on the White Moss Quarry site has been publicised. The number of houses currently being proposed is 700 although higher numbers have been discussed.

The proposals lack detail and in particular, the relationship between the proposal and the committed restoration plan has not been clearly explained.

The Impact on Alsager as a whole.

In the Cheshire East draft Local plan, Alsager is a Key Service Centre, providing infrastructure and services to its catchment area. Cheshire East has defined a housing allocation for Alsager for the next 20 years of 1,000 houses. Alsager is unique, in that all of its allocation can be achieved through building on its Brownfield sites. If the rules are applied by the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board, this means that our greenfield sites are protected, if Alsager can demonstrate that it will achieve its allocation.

Planning permission has already been granted for the Twyfords site and Crewe Road, giving a total of at least 400 houses already in year 1.

When the Alsager Town Plan was produced, there was no suggestion of building either on the White Moss Quarry(700 – 1000) or Barthomley (4,500). There is no doubt that if these two sites had been considered, the plan would have been very different.

The White Moss Quarry is an industrial site so from that point of view some well planned building there would be consistent with Alsager’s Brownfield first policy. Some residents have expressed the view that having some housing there is a better option that continued quarry operations.

There is as yet no detail of a White Moss Quarry proposal and if one is made, it will be subject to public consultation in the normal way. It is not at all clear however how such a proposal will be treated by Cheshire East. Common sense suggests that any building on the White Moss Quarry would be a direct contribution to the Alsager Housing allocation and Cheshire East planning officers have agreed with that point of view in meetings.  However, that is very different from a formal agreement on how these number will be handled. The White Moss Quarry is not covered by any Cheshire East plans and a large part of the site is in the Haslington parish, so until a formal position is established, the appropriate rules for planning board deliberations are unclear.

 ARAG View

ARAG has an ‘open mind’ on the White Moss Quarry. There is as yet, no detailed proposal and the received views of residents are mixed.

It is essential though that Cheshire East clarifies the position on how such a development would impact the housing allocation of Alsager. The Town Council has requested that formal consideration is given to this in the Cheshire East Local Plan . ARAG will follow this up with the developer and Cheshire East.

 

 

 

The MMU site, Alsager.

The MMU site, Alsager: A Community Development Plan

 

Alsager Residents Action Group [ARAG] has produced a Development Plan for consideration by Cheshire East Council Leaders regarding the ‘mixed use’ that could be made of the former MMU site. The Development Plan was created by Professor Derek Longhurst and is based upon the creation of a viable framework for a strategic and collaborative partnership focused upon the core objective of saving the most valuable of the publicly-funded buildings and sports pitches on the former MMU site. Instead of a narrow commercially-driven approach, this constitutes a creative and exciting project that would provide educational and training benefits alongside health and well being for the wider community.

The Plan essentially involves:

  • The establishment of a University Technical College (UTC) providing engineering and vocational programmes of study for the 14-19 age group
  • The UTC would be supported by a University and by significant employers in the region through work-based learning opportunities
  • The UTC infrastructure would be based upon the preservation and refurbishment of the buildings currently located on the southern side of the site. Funding to support the UTC would be through the Department for Education and would also involve support from the Baker Dearing Foundation
  • The UTC infrastructure would provide the basis for the maintenance and future management of the playing fields and Sports Facilities which would be made accessible for community use especially by youth teams. The Alsager Sports and Recreation Association will take a leading role in shaping and determining this development.
  • The site would also allow for the development of a community ‘village’ designed to meet the needs of elderly and disabled people. The intergenerational character of this community is an important feature and it is to be hoped that there may be benefits also for University of the Third Age activities. The Plan embodies a positive approach to the enhancement of opportunities for lifelong learning and we hope that U3A will also engage fully within the partnership.
  • MMU could still recover its financial costs through the sale of the land for residential housing within the northern Brownfield footprint of the site.

In our view this plan is in line with the adopted Town Plan and the former Congleton Borough Supplementary Briefing document that addressed the future use of the former MMU site. Its presentation to Cheshire East Council Leaders demonstrated how such a plan was integral to its own Local Plan and to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework. The Plan has met with a positive response from Cheshire East Council Leaders and from our local MP, Fiona Bruce, who has long been an active advocate for UTCs and with whom we will be working to generate crucial industry backing especially from major engineering and technology companies.

It is important to emphasise that this Plan is not just ‘wishful thinking’ and implementation plans for this project have been initiated to ensure that there are grounds for optimism that this constitutes a Development Plan that is realisable. It is essential now that such detailed arrangements are transparently developed, as a matter of professional courtesy, with all parties that have a stake in the enterprise including Alsager School and South Cheshire College of Further Education, the Town Council and MMU. It will be essential to develop the UTC in a way that enhances collaboration in educational provision and avoids unnecessary and wasteful competition.

Where other Development Plans presented to the community in Alsager are clearly driven by narrow speculative and commercial gain for the companies and landowners involved, this plan has a ‘moral’ dimension to it. It is driven by a concern for the future education, training and employment opportunities available for our young people as well as for their physical health and well being. It puts into place a community development plan that will not increase carbon emissions, pollution and congestion and so will benefit the community as a whole. It will also serve to ‘rescue’ sports pitches and facilities that have been built, maintained and even refurbished at the taxpayer’s expense. From that perspective, it would be irresponsible – and unacceptable – to implement any of the options put forward currently by DTZ for the development of the MMU site.

This proposal will enable Alsager to meet its commitments as a Key Service Centre and provider, as outlined in the Cheshire East Local Plan, while also maintaining its ability to deliver prospects for growth and employment across our entire community. Alsager Residents Action Group (ARAG) is pledged to work vigorously, on behalf of its residents, to achieve the very best use of the facilities on the former MMU site and we are aware that we only have this one window of opportunity in which to do so.

 

 

 

 

White Moss Development Exhibition

There is a presentation by Renew Land Developments Ltd, on their proposed development at White Moss Quarry, at Alsager Civic on Friday 15th March from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. It was understood that the expected proposal was to be for about 700 houses but a figure of 1000 has been quoted.

Strategic planning board – a good result.

The Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board met on Wednesday to consider two outline planning applications in Alsager and one in Church Lawton.

Planning officers had recommended refusal of Hall Drive reference (12/4150C) and Sandbach Road North (12/4872C) After some debate the councillors supported the recommendations and refused the applications but the developers will almost certainly appeal.

Although the Rectory Farm, Church Lawton (12/3016c) was recommended for approval, the Rectory Farm Action Group very successfully challenged this recommendation and the councillors also refused this application – against the advice of the planning officers. Again, the developers may appeal.

Strategic Planning Board Decision Meeting

Strategic Planning Board Meeting 13/3/2013

The Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board will meet tomorrow, Wednesday 13/3/2013 at 10.30 am.

Two Alsager proposals will be considered.  The Cheshire East planners have produced a good strong strategic case for refusal, which will be considered by the Strategic Planning Board.  On that basis:

Hall Drive reference (12/4150C)
and Sandbach Road North (12/4872C) are both recommended for refusal.

Also, the Rectory Farm, Church Lawton (12/3016c) is recommended for approval.  The Rectory Farm Action Group will be challenging this recommendation however and we wish them good luck.

The meeting is open to the public and will take place at the Crewe Municiple Buildings in Earle Street, Crewe which is directly opposite the Library and War Memorial.

The meeting agenda and the accompanying Planners reports and recommendations can be viewed here.

The results of the meeting will be reported on this site.

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL FOR LAND AT RHODES FIELD

Rhodes Field is on Crewe Road, on the right, past the junction with Close Lane and before the traffic lights.

In the latest of a deluge of speculative proposals affecting Alsager, Persimmon Homes are proposing “approximately” 110 houses on this Greenfield site. In addition to Barthomley/Oakhanger, there are now three developments at this end of Alsager (in fact two are technically in Haslington Parish – White Moss and the Close Lane) which are ‘at some stage’ in the planning process and which will have a serious impact.

Persimmon homes are hosting a ‘consultation event’ at Alsager Civic on Monday 11th March from 2pm – 7pm at which residents can give their views. If you are unable to attend the Developer has also provided a website: here

This fourth housing development has to be considered in the context of the White Moss proposals recently posted on the ARAG website; the proposed Muller development on Close Lane; the unresolved Barthomley/Oakhanger situation and the impact of any or all of these on the infrastructure of Alsager as the Key Service Centre for the whole area – plus the quota of housing already decided within Alsager.

WHITE MOSS PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT. A LOCAL RESIDENT’S REPORT ON A RECENT MEETING

The resident’s report is followed by comments from ARAG and notice of future presentations on the proposals.

White Moss Quarry

Development Meeting: Bank Corner  -   Monday 4th March 2013

Development Presenters:

  •  Lee Dawkin (Land Development)
  • Alan Thornley (Planning)

The meeting was attended by about 12 Alsager residents, mostly from Close Lane and Nursery Road. Many of these residents demonstrated how well-informed they are about the history of this site and the issues surrounding it

Much of the meeting was led by Alan Thornley, formerly Planning Officer of Cheshire County Council until his retirement in July 2007. He was reminded by residents, however, that he had attended, as an observer, the Quarry Aggregate Agreement meeting in 2008.

Overview of the Meeting

  • The purpose of the presentation was ‘to gauge people’s views’ and it was suggested that the draft plans available at the meeting are not set in stone.
  • Throughout the evening, the development was presented as a kind of ‘least worst option’: the presenters argued that it would be better to build where there is a quarry currently (Brownfield and described as an ‘eyesore’) rather than on the Greenfield sites that were under threat; the quarry could continue operating until 2028 or even 2042; even if ‘restored’ at some point in the future there would be no greater public access to the privately- owned land other than designated footpaths (Health and Safety reasons were cited); it was claimed that the impact on Alsager would be less than other projected sites because traffic would be travelling towards the M6 and Crewe direction rather than through the town.
  • It was clear that the presenters regarded the site as having impact upon the infrastructure of Alsager and its administrative location within Haslington is clearly an irrelevance in real terms There is a Town Council presentation on 11 March and it is to be hoped that common sense will prevail in these discussions
  • It was equally clear that any impact on the Town infrastructure had not been of primary concern to the presenters and close questioning by the audience elicited the formulaic answers about commuted payments, 106 Agreements and even building a new school!
  • When challenged to admit that this was a speculative profit-driven proposal to make the most money out of the site regardless of the community, the response from Alan Thornley suggested that residents should support this site again as a’ least worst option’ and as protection against Cheshire East Council dumping other unwanted Development on Alsager’s Greenfield sites if it could not get enough residential homes in the northern part of the region. This was a fairly consistent ‘theme’ throughout the evening’s discussions.
  • If Planning permission were to be granted, contouring of the land to prepare it for building development would happen over the first 18 months. The houses would be built in phases, dependent upon market conditions, over the next 10-15 years.
  • There was a robust debate regarding public access following the restoration of the land to wetlands etc. Sylvia Dyke argued that everything should be open to the public. Alan Thornley responded that there was ‘no legal agreement’ to require Beecroft to allow public access to his private land other than existing public footpaths. This was contested. The inherent ‘threat’ here to the community was that ‘even if the land is restored you won’t be any better off so you may as well support the development’. The land would have to be taken over by Cheshire East Council to permit greater public access and it was unlikely that it would have the funding to do so.
  • The silt lagoons will not be suitable for building and so building will be restricted to solid ground. A topographical survey is in progress and should be completed next week. There would be consultation with the Environment Agency regarding flood levels.
  • The presenters were clear that they see this site as targeted mainly on commuters who would regard Alsager as a desirable place to live with easy access to the M6.
  • Residents outlined a profile for the site that would involve a more ‘mixed use’ approach including the development of water sports, angling etc. The example of Astbury Mere was cited as a model for a rather different approach. Such suggestions did not seem to be of much interest to the presenters.

 

Next Steps

There will be a public presentation on 15 March and ARAG Officers recommend that residents try to attend this event to express your views and concerns. Residents are faced here with a Development Proposal that is presented as a ‘ least worst option available’ and one that acknowledges that the ‘Key Service Centre’ will be Alsager. It will be important that residents demand that, if this Development is to be supported, that common sense prevails regarding administrative boundaries. The presenters of this project clearly argued that the Development would ‘protect’ Alsager from further development on other sites. It would be strange therefore if the view expressed by one or two Councillors regarding what are administrative boundaries would take precedence over common sense and reality. To cite the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF]:

Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives.

White Moss Quarry Update

Town Council meeting covering White Moss Quarry

The Town Council held a meeting on Tuesday 26th February to discuss the fact that a development proposal had been discussed for 700 houses on the border of Alsager in the White Moss Liaison Group with Town Council representatives and that this ‘material information’ had not been reported to the Town Council when it was considering its response to the Cheshire East Development Strategy.  The minutes of that meeting show:

At the meeting of the Town Council’s Planning and Community Services Committee held on Tuesday 26th February

2013 the following addendum to the Alsager Town Council’s Consultation response dated 20th February 2013 was

unanimously agreed:

As the Town Council has expressed serious concern on Page 1 of its response on the impact on Alsager of the proposed new settlement at Barthomley, then the Town Council contend that there is an equally clear case for formal consideration of such a proposal for White Moss Quarry on the impact on Alsager”

This council meeting was well attended by members of the public and ARAG members. There was a good contribution from the floor. The outcome was consistent with ARAG’s request to the Town Council and this is a good example of “working together”.

An Alternative Approach to Developing the MMU

This post introduces a new innovative approach to developing the MMU site.  It first of all covers the recent DTZ_MMU exhibition and then announces the new approach.

The DTZ –  MMU Exhibition

 ARAG officers attended the DTZ exhibitions on Monday and Wednesday of this week. The MMU development is probably the most important Alsager development in the next 20 years and it should/must have a positive influence on our environment for the future.

The clear expectation of Alsager Residents is that in any acceptable proposal:

  • all the sports fields will be retained 
  • a Sports Hub will be developed to serve the catchment of Area of Alsager as a Key Service Centre 
  • the expensive buildings which were constructed at great public expense will be retained wherever possible 
  • employment opportunities will be generated 
  • the housing constraints and the aspirations identified in the Town Plan will also be addressed
  • and the Alsager community will have top class facilities which take advantage of the unique nature of the site.

The DTZ exhibition seriously underestimated the level of interest from Alsager residents and this was apparent by the inadequate size of the rooms and the quality of the displays. It also displayed a disappointing lack of awareness of the aspirations of the community.

DTZ presented three proposals or “options”, which share the same characteristics:

  • 500 houses and not the 300 in the accepted Town Plan.
  • Building on and destruction of some of the best playing fields in Cheshire.
  • Building  not limited to the footprint of the current buildings.
  • Buildings erected using public funds and lottery funding will all be demolished.
  • No attempt to generate a Key Service Centre Sports Hub.
  • No recognition of the Building Inspector’s comments on the inadequate Alsager infrastructure.
  • No benefit to the Alsager community.
These are clearly not acceptable.

The MMU site is a huge opportunity for Alsager residents to improve the quality of life for current and future generations and the DTZ proposals miss that opportunity totally.

 However there is an ARAG Alternative.

 ARAG is committed to positive action and working collaboratively with councils and organisations where it is clear that this is in the best interests of Alsager.

To that end, Councillor David Brown ( Deputy Leader of the Council; Strategic Communities Portfolio Holder ) met with ARAG officers at the Wednesday exhibition to discuss the DTZ proposal and also to receive a document from ARAG, produced by Professor Derek Longhurst, defining a consortium approach which will deliver on all the stated Alsager Resident aspirations for the MMU site and more.

After Councillor Brown has considered this proposal with Councillor Michael Jones(Leader of the Council) , ARAG will meet with them both to determine if Cheshire East is prepared to support these plans, which ARAG regards as an innovative and attractive proposal.

Further details will be published following that meeting.  

ARAG hopes for  general Alsager support in developing a proposal that will meet all the aspirations of our community, as stated in the Town Plan and deliver something everyone can be proud of.

POTHOLE UPDATE 27TH FEBRUARY 2013

Pothole update 27/2/2013

Following a meeting with the Leader of Cheshire East Council; to discuss Speculative Housing Development in Alsager and also the wide ranging effect these developments would have on the Town infrastructure, the subject of the existing appalling state of our roads was raised.
As we reported earlier, Councillor Jones said that if ARAG told him where the very bad potholes were in Alsager he would get them fixed and so, through our website, we asked you to let us know where the very bad potholes where located.

Naturally we had a tremendous response and as a result we photographed and listed the worst ones and sent the details to Councillor Jones at Cheshire East. We did not wish to send a list of every pothole in Alsager, we doubt that we have sufficient paper, so we concentrated on the really bad ones so that we could see if Councillor Jones was as good as his word.

It took a couple of weeks for Cheshire East Highways department to get itself into gear but gradually, with some notable exceptions, most of the very bad potholes were filled.
Certainly the very bad potholes, that had received the most responses from you, were done.
Sadly, before much of this work had been completed we suffered another period of very severe weather and many new potholes developed, often near to those which had been reported, so although there has been some improvement in the overall situation there is still a long way to go.

During a further meeting with Cheshire East Officers, including the Head of Highways, ARAG pointed out the very poor quality of some of the repair work. Residents had reported that contractors had arrived on site, thrown a couple of shovelfuls of cold tarmac into a pothole, hit with the back of their shovel and driven away.
This practice had also been witnessed by one of ARAG’s committee members.

The Head of Highways was asked what was being done about ensuring Quality Control and we also pointed out that contractors were repairing 5cm deep potholes (Cheshire East’s Priority 1) and ignoring 3 and 4cm deep potholes alongside.
This cannot be a cost effective use of scarce resources.

We must have had some impact because on some of the roads in Alsager, during recent weeks, whole areas have been repaired instead of the inadequate practices they were previously adopting.
We hope this will become the standard used by Cheshire East Highways, in the future.

Because ARAG must concentrate its efforts on planning applications and development proposals, that will affect the future of our Town, we do not have the resources to keep re-doing pothole surveys but; as a community, we must not relax our efforts.
Please help us and our community by reporting potholes to Cheshire East Highways Department.

You can do this by simply clicking onto the link here.

MMU Exhibition and White Moss Quarry Council Meeting

DTZ – MMU Exhibition

ARAG officers attended the DTZ – MMU exhibition today at the Leisure Centre, together with a large number of interested residents. DTZ are proposing 3 options for re-development of the MMU site. The exhibition itself was disappointing, showing little vision with an uninspired presentation. The quality and content of the exhibition was illustrative of a failure to understand the community interest in this site

All of these options involve building 500 houses, ( as opposed to the 300 in the Town Plan ) loss of some of the sports fields and destruction of the MMU buildings. To compensate for this loss of facility and deviation from previous proposals, it is suggested that there should be improvements to the Leisure Centre and the school’s All Weather pitches.

When development of the MMU has been previously considered, and in particular at the public enquiry, it has always been in the context of developing a sports and leisure hub, together with excellent community facilities for the whole of Alsager. Building has to be within the footprint of the current buildings and sports fields have to be retained. There are high quality top class buildings on the MMU site that have cost millions of pounds of tax payers money and ARAG considers it to be a profligate waste of public funds to demolish them and remove them from community use.

Similarly, the sports fields were recently upgraded at a significant public expense to become some of the best in Cheshire. ARAG considers that these fields should not be destroyed and that any building should be within the footprint of the current buildings.

Our Town Plan stated that there should be 300 houses on the MMU site, ARAG believes that this number is appropriate providing that the building is within the footprint of the current buildings.

At the exhibition, visitors were asked to vote on one of 3 options. In ARAG’s view, none of these options is acceptable and this was our response to DTZ. What is offered is the lowest common denominator minimalist PR ‘offer’ to the community and a divisive strategy on the sports facilities involving School, leisure centre and the community. ARAG will seek to support common ground between all three in developing an alternative approach.

You can have a second opportunity to view DTZ’s proposals in the Civic on Wednesday between 1 and 7 pm. We will be attending again and voting for ‘none of the above‘.

 White Moss Quarry

Tomorrow evening, there will be a Town Planning Committee Meeting at the Alsager Institute, Green Drive, starting at 7 pm. The Town Council will receive a report from the Town Council representatives of the White Moss Liaison Committee meeting held 13/1/2013. This is where the building proposal for 700 houses on the White Moss Quarry site was discussed.

The Town Council’s response to the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy has not currently taken this proposal into account.

 

 

MMU exhibition

An important reminder. The development company DTZ are holding exhibitions on their plans for the MMU site. These are on:

Monday, 25 February in the Leisure Centre – 3.00 to 7.00 p.m. and
Wednesday, 27 February in the Civic Centre – 1.00 to 7.00 p.m.
Please go along, in a group of like-minded family/friends if possible and find out what is being planned for this important site!

 

 

Responding to the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy

As you know, Alsager residents have a once only opportunity to comment on the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy (DDS) by 26th Feb.

For some this can seem a daunting process – as is reading and understanding the documents! In response to these concerns we have compiled some basic information and suggestions for your responses here. We accept that some people may disagree with some or even all our suggestions and residents have to decide for themselves how they wish to comment.  

We would also be grateful for your feedback here on any or all of the issues and how you responded to the DDS if you have no objection to sharing this with us. Thank you.

This a crucial time for Alsager residents who have to imagine what the whole town, not just their immediate locality, will look like in 20 or 30 years. It is not our wish to stop development which is properly planned which is why we have always focussed on the whole town, its environs and the infrastructure problems – which is what we would expect Cheshire East to do.

We have restricted our comments to issues affecting Alsager and its immediate surroundings including the unavoidable impact on Alsager of any likely development in Barthomley and Church Lawton. Also at White Moss Quarry specifically and Haslington Parish in general, all of which are outside the Alsager Town boundary but which must nevertheless be considered because Alsager is named in the DDS as a Key Service Centre which by definition includes all of the above.

We do urge residents who have not yet done so, to urgently consider and make some sort of response to the Cheshire East DDS consultation process – and to please encourage others to do so if possible – because the views and proposals of developers and others in their responses – with perhaps no real concern or interest in the future for Alsager apart from short-term financial gain – must surely be challenged, not to mention some of the intentions of Cheshire East Council as laid out in the DDS.

When making your comments to Cheshire East please refer freely to the information we have provided here but please note that simply copying material rather than using your own words and also sending duplicate submissions from the same address somewhat lessens the impact! This also applies to comments on planning applications.

There have been reports of more problems with the Cheshire East website crashing but we have been told that there is no question of the consultation period being extended because of this. If for any reason you are unable to submit your comments on the DDS through their website here you can email them to here

Town Council Response to The Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy Report and Some Concerns

Town Council Response to The Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy 

ARAG Officers attended the Town Council meeting held in the Civic on Monday 18/01/2013 when the Town Council presented its response to the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy and its Policy Principles. This document, and any Town Council decisions related to it, is extremely important as it defines the strategy and policies for house building in Alsager for the next 20 years. We were pleased to note that many of the concerns identified by ARAG and forwarded to the Town Council have been adopted and we are appreciative of the support demonstrated by members of the Town Council and its Officers in this process.

There was an opportunity for public participation followed by a wide-ranging debate by members of the Town Council. During this discussion a number of amendments were agreed. Of particular importance in these amendments was recognition that the number of houses allocated to Alsager must not exceed 1,000 as a matter of principle. This is the number agreed in the adopted Alsager Town Plan. Reference was also made concerning the impact of the proposed Barthomley development upon Alsager and its surroundings.

The Alsager Town Council’s response is an important part of the Public Participation Process, in which ARAG is also urging its members to participate. In its response to the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy (DDS), ARAG will strongly represent the perspective that there must be serious and early consideration of the infrastructure of Alsager as a Key Service Centre for all of the proposed local developments. We strongly urge all residents to engage with this process so that the community is not seen as passively accepting whatever Planning Officers propose or Developers put forward. In this context it is vitally important that as many people as possible respond to the consultation before 26 February so that it is made clear that the community as a whole cares what happens to the Greenfield and playing fields/sports facilities on the MMU site as well as other Greenfield sites under threat.  You can see how to register your points of view here .

 White Moss Quarry. New Information, Some Concerns.

Following the Town Council meeting, around 22.30 the same evening, a member of the ARAG committee received an email which documented a meeting of the White Moss Quarry Liaison Group. The minutes of the meeting drew attention to a housing proposal for 700 houses on the White Moss Quarry Site.

The meeting took place on 13/01/2013 and was attended by our Cheshire East and Town Council representatives and a local resident. It is, perhaps, notable that ARAG has never been invited to send a representative to these meetings and, therefore, had no knowledge of these proposals nor do we receive the minutes of all meetings. It is clear, however, from the formal minutes that the proposal was strongly supported by the Alsager Town council representative.

ARAG is concerned that the Town Council was not made aware of this proposal or of the support for it by its own representative, before its deliberations and the formal approval of the response to the DDS.

White Moss Quarry lies within the Haslington Parish but on the border of Alsager. Any development there would have a significant impact on Alsager’s infrastructure and services. It is not, therefore, an adequate response to ignore the proposal as Alsager Town would be defined by Cheshire East Council as the Key Service Centre for such a development and not Haslington. After all, this is why the Town Council is represented in the White Moss Quarry Liaison Group meetings. In this context, we will urge the Town Council to review the advice of at least one Cheshire East Councillor regarding definition of the Town boundaries. If there is a clear case to consider the impact of the proposed Barthomley development on the infrastructure of Alsager, there is an equally clear one for formal consideration of such a proposal for White Moss Quarry.

The White Moss Quarry proposal is a significant consideration when agreeing the number of houses that will be needed and that are sustainable in Alsager itself and it’s environs.

ARAG has requested, via the Town Clerk, that as the proposed White Moss Development is ‘a material consideration’ in relation to Alsager’s infrastructure,the Town Council should consider its full potential impact in its response to Cheshire East Council and in particular that it amends its statement on the Barthomley proposal to include reference to White Moss.

 

Important Note:

ARAG is not proposing that the Parish boundary between Alsager and Haslington is moved in order to include White Moss. This could only be considered by a Boundary Commission and we are not aware of any government plans to do this in the foreseeable future.

However, any developments in Haslington Parish, which impact directly on Alsager’s infrastructure (roads, schools, medical services, sports pitches etc), must be a ‘material consideration’ when setting the level of housing development within the Town Boundary.

Alsager certainly does not need 1,000 houses within its boundaries if very large housing developments, such as White Moss and Barthomley which use Alsager’s services, are built right on our doorstep.

The Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy


As previously reported, the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy (DDS) is currently under consultation and this consultation ends 26/2/2013.

This document is the most important control document for building in and around Alsager for the next 20 years. It covers building for the whole of Cheshire East. You have an opportunity to have your say and the ARAG website has been updated today to explain how to do that. You can get that information here

The website page is under the section ‘Cheshire East Strategic Plan’, it provides some background and also identifies a number of issues which ARAG considers important. 

Please have your say.

Cheshire East Local Plan – SHLAA

On Friday 8th February 2013, Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board received the latest update of the STRATEGIC HOUSING LAND AVAILABILITY ASSESSMENT (SHLAA) document.

This document forms a major part of the supporting data for the Cheshire East Local Plan and is therefore extremely important. It identifies the amount of identified house building land within Cheshire East over the next 15 years and Government National Policy states that if a Council cannot demonstrate a 5 Year Supply of Available Housing Land then in effect they must always say ‘yes’ to developers speculative planning applications on our Greenfield sites.

It is because the previous SHLAA document, issued 31st March 2012, showed that Cheshire East had only 3.9 years of Available Housing Land that developers have been able to make successful appeals against any planning applications that Cheshire East has refused.

The good news is that the new document, issued in January 2013, indicates that Cheshire East now has a 5 Year Supply of House Building Land. This should remove the main reason why Developers have been able to successfully appeal against any of their applications that had been refused by the Council.

However, we do not know when the effective date will be, for the application of the new housing land supply figure, to those applications currently under appeal. We have learned that if a Developer submitted an application before this new document is Formally Adopted, by Cheshire East Council, they may still win their appeal.

ARAG has produced a new schedule of land identified for house building, in Alsager, which shows that the new SHLAA document shows house building, on Alsager’s Greenfield sites, in the 15 year period with most of it in years 6 to 10. You can view it here.

We are strongly opposed to this and have asked Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board, via Councillor Derek Hough, to remove any Identified House Building on Alsager’s Greenfield sites within the Local Plan period up to 2030.
This is in line with the Adopted Alsager Town Strategy, which has the support of Alsager’s residents.

Cheshire East tell us, that they will be able to refuse applications for sites which are not in the ‘Cheshire East Local Plan’ which, when adopted, should state that house building in Alsager will be restricted to our identified Brownfield sites until the year 2030.

You will see that Cheshire East have introduced 3 sites which were not previously identified and also increased the number of houses to be built on 4 of the sites which had already been listed in their previous document.
The overall effect of these changes is to increase the number of identified dwellings, in Alsager, by 612 to a new total of 1930.

ARAG believes this SHLAA document is effectively an ‘open invitation’ for developers to raid our Greenfield sites.

MMU exhibition

The Development Company working on application plans for the future use of the MMU site off Hassall Road have announced the following dates and venues for public exhibitions regarding their proposals:
 
  • 25 February at the Leisure Centre (3.00-7.00 pm)
  • 27 February: Alsager Civic Centre (1.00-7.00 pm)
It is very important that residents seek to attend at least one of these exhibitions owing to the documents currently available that suggest a high density of residential building (300-500 homes) is being planned. ARAG has supported the principle of building on brownfield sites, including MMU, but would wish to see mixed use of the campus as previously outlined in Council briefings. The Sports and Leisure facilities, in particular, must be defended for future generations especially as they were financed by public money.
An independent campaign has been started to save the MMU facilities called

Save the Alsager MMU Sports Facilities

ARAG will work with this campaign and others to save these facilities from being destroyed.
A version of the campaign document is below and the Facebook page for the campaign can be found here.

ALSAGER PARTNERSHIP SPORTS ASSOCIATION
              SAVE THE MMU SPORTS FACILITIES


Plans are being drawn up for the MMU Campus for the provision of up to 500 new homes.
• This could destroy valuable sports facilities in Alsager.
• A recent report published by Cheshire East identifies a shortage of sport and
recreation facilities in Alsager.
• Sport England have statutory powers to protect these valuable assets.
• The Alsager Town Plan envisages a Sports Hub on the site bringing together
a wide range of both sport and community groups into a multi user facility.

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT THESE
ASSETS FROM THE BULLDOZER.

              HOW CAN YOU HELP?

• Join our Facebook page (Save the Alsager MMU Sports Facilities). This will
enable us to give you regular updates on the progress of the application and
recommended actions.
• Lobby your MP, Fiona Bruce Fiona.bruce.mp@parliament.uk.
• Lobby Sport England Fiona.pudge@sportengland.org.
• Lobby Cheshire East Planning Dept Adrian.fisher@cheshireeast.gov.uk
• Lobby Cheshire East Leader Mike Jones Mike.e.jones@cheshireeast.gov.uk
• Attend the forthcoming exhibitions and make your feelings known!
Alsager Leisure Centre Mon 25th February 2013 3pm – 7pm
Alsager Civic Centre Wed 27th February 2013 1pm – 7 pm.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
STEPHEN WADE – scwade@btinternet.com

Barthomley update

On Monday, 18th February there will be  Meeting in Barthomley Village Hall at 7.00 p.m. where questions can be put to Cllr Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council regarding the proposed developments in that area.  This is an open meeting and residents of Alsager are very welcome to attend.

 

MMU site

We have now had confirmation that the development company DTZ will be holding Exhibitions on future plans for the MMU site in Alsager.  These are as follows:  Monday, 25th February at the Leisure Centre from 3.00 to 7.00 p.m. and Wednesday, 27th February in the Civic Centre from 1.00 to 7.00 p.m.

 

Planning meeting, update

Our Town Council met in the Alsager Civic on Monday evening to consider, first, their Response to the Cheshire East Development Strategy which is out for consultation and during the extended public participation period several local residents and representatives from ARAG spoke on the subject.

Among concerns raised were the issue of the contradiction in the document between the stated number of affordable houses required in Alsager each year and the percentage that would be required of developers (the figures don’t correlate); the future of the MMU site and the probable and significant impact on Alsager of the proposals for Barthomley; provision for the elderly and the retention of green spaces. The issue of our Brownfield sites was not forgotten and there was heated criticism of the role of central government in Alsager’s predicament. The Town Council will announce their Response to Cheshire East, which will take account of the concerns of residents, at a later meeting.

The last item in the public session was the Planning Application for 155 homes off Sandbach Road North. After a brief discussion amongst the councillors including a detailed statement objecting to the proposal the Council proceeded quickly to a vote which was unanimous in recommending refusal of the application on several grounds. The details of the refusal will be found in due course amongst the objections on the Cheshire East website under that planning application which is listed on our website.

We are also pleased to draw attention to a Meeting at Rode Heath Village Hall on Tuesday 5th February,  7.00pm – 9.30pm for local residents who are opposing a proposed development at Rectory Farm for an amended application of 31 houses. (This is listed with a link to Cheshire East, on this website under Current Greenfield Proposals)

Town Council Planning Meeting

Alsager Town Council are meeting in Alsager Civic tonight, Monday 4th Feb. at 7 pm, to discuss the Cheshire East Development Strategy. There will be EXTENDED PUBLIC PARTICIPATION.

The public are invited to give their views on the two documents. Although invited, no one from the Planning Department will be present as it is their policy not to attend any Town and Parish council meetings on this issue.

Please help to publicise the meeting.

Barthomley ‘Demo’

“Alsager residents are being urged to fight plans for a new village”  – this week’s Alsager Chronicle.

The Barthomley Action Group has asked us to help make sure that everyone knows about the meeting and if they can, to get to Barthomley on Saturday morning (2nd Feb) to show support and solidarity with them in their fight to save Barthomley and the green belt.

Edward Timpson, Conservative MP for Crewe and of course the press, will be there to hear residents’ views. We have been asked to be there by 9.20 so an early start might be advisable, if you are familiar with the roads to and in, the village. BAG have said that home-made banners or placards are very welcome but nothing too rude please! There are 12000 residents in Alsager who, it is believed, will all feel the impact if these proposals are allowed to go ahead so we should be able to put on an impressive show for Mr Timpson!

Success on Hassall Road!

You will be pleased to learn that the Strategic Planning Board have, today, refused the Hassall Road development proposal – against all the advice and the powers of persuasion of the Planning Officers who put up a very strong case. To be fair, it is their job. But their case was based simply on the current legislation and mainly on the fact that Cheshire East still cannot show the required five year supply of housing even though this is expected imminently. Several people spoke passionately against the proposed development with reference to the legislation and how that should be interpreted in the light of a rapidly changing situation. It was a co-ordinated effort by Cllrs Rod Fletcher (Ward Cllr) and Shirley Jones (Town Cllr) against the proposals, supported by Alderman Derek Bould for ARAG and finally Mrs Amanda Davies from Heath End Farm, as a member of the public. The only councillors on the Planning Board, including Cllr Derek Hough from Alsager, who led the debate, who had anything to say or questions to ask were the ones who refused to be intimidated by the Planning Dept. and we are indebted to them for their support. The proposal was finally rejected on the grounds that it would be damaging to the countryside, the landscape and environment. Some Board members rightly regarded this as another ‘piecemeal’ proposal and typically speculative especially when account is taken of the potential of the nearby Brownfield site at MMU! There was also heated discussion on flooding, drainage, road usage and safety with particular reference to Hassall Rd and also the junction with Pikemere Rd. Evidence on these matters, from bodies like Cheshire Highways and the Environment Agency, was strongly challenged and it could become necessary to provide some ‘hard’ evidence, particularly on road use and safety issues if there is an appeal.

There is no doubt then, that this was nothing less than a victory for common sense over rigid bureaucracy.

Although a positive outcome for Alsager residents, there may well be consequences as the developer may go to appeal – this is likely because the elected Board Members have gone against the advice of the Planning Dept. But there is already an appeal pending on the adjoining site – and today’s decision may well affect the outcome – especially if Cheshire East get their act together very soon over the housing supply issue.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all who supported us, especially Ald. Bould who has been working tirelessly on this matter for at least the last two weeks and Mrs Davies who put up such a good show. It was a shame that none of the large, colour photos of Hassall Road parking and flooded fields etc. were permitted in evidence!

If you haven’t already, please join our Facebook group here and help spread the word. We have over 420 members but need lots more (Alsager pop. is 12000).

Hassall Road Decision Time

The Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board meets today (Wednesday 30th) to decide on the Hassall Road planning application.

Cheshire East Planning Department has recommended approval but ARAG will be there to speak against and we hope to persuade the Board to reject – as they did with the previous application on Hassall Road. Mrs Davies of Heath End Farm which is adjacent to the site, will also be speaking against! We believe there are a number of flaws in the application and in the planning officers’ report and we will try hard to refute their argument(s).  

A number of Alsager residents have already confirmed that they will be attending the meeting. It would be great if as many people as possible who can spare the time could come along to demonstrate solidarity. This is not just about Hassall Road – whether or not you live on or near it – but about the future shape of Alsager and the widely supported fight to stop unwanted and inappropriate development especially on our greenfield sites.

If you can spare the time please be at the Municipal Offices (opposite the War Memorial) in Crewe between 1pm and 1.30

 

Thank you for your support.

Anger about the Hassall Road Development

ARAG has received a number of e-mails from supporters, who are rightly very angry about Cheshire East’s Planning Department’s recommendation for their Strategic Planning Board to Approve the application 12/3905C for 34 Houses on Land adjoining Heathend Farm, Hassall Road, Alsager.

We are told by one of our Cheshire East Councillors (Cllr Hough) that if further objections are sent the Council, they must be reported to the councillors making the decision. Cllr Hough is the Vice Chairman of the Strategic Planning Board so he should know if this is correct. We hope that he will support the views of local residents.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held on Wednesday 30th January at The Municipal Buildings, Crewe starting at 10.30am so come along and show your support to the residents of Hassall Road.

 

If you haven’t already, please join our Facebook group here and help spread the word. We have over 400 members but need lots more.

Hassall Road Development

ARAG has learned that the Hassall Road Planning Application, number 12/3905, is up for decision at the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board on Wednesday 30th January 2013 (starting at 10.30 at the Municipal Buildings, Crewe). The Planning Department. has recommended Approval to the Strategic Planning Board and is still using the argument that the Council does not have a 5 year Supply of Available Housing Land. This is in contrast to the comments of the Council Leader, Cllr Michael Jones, who told us that he anticipated that Cheshire East would have a 5 year Supply of Available Housing Land by the end of the month and that it would be reported at the Strategic Planning Board on the 30th January.

Action on potholes

ARAG is pleased to report that following last week’s submission of our Hazardous Pot Hole Report, to the Leader of Cheshire East Council Cllr Michael Jones,the pothole which received by far the greatest number of reports from our residents has been repaired.

This pothole on the Mini Roundabout at the Church Road / Hassall Road junction, after weeks of inactivity, has been fixed and we wait to see which of the other very bad potholes that were in our report get similar treatment.

We are particularly interested to hear from you if other very bad potholes get fixed over the next few days and here are some that also received a high number of reports for you:

Coronation Avenue by Dickenson Place/ Playground,  

A5011 Linley Lane near junction with Linley Road.

Leicester Avenue – Cavendish Crescent junction,  

Close Lane – numerous

Naturally, we will delay our ‘Thank You’ to Cheshire East’s Council Leader until we see if the good news continues but so far he has kept his promise and, because we have had his assurance of direct access to him, we hope and expect this level of service will continue.

Can we ask that for future pothole problems, please report them on the Cheshire East web site. 

Please keep a record and details of your report, and reference number, and if no action is taken let us know.

New Planning Applications

CHURCH LAWTON

An amended outline planning application for Rectory Farm, Old Knutsford Road, Church Lawton has been submitted to Cheshire East. Residents therefore have another opportunity to object/comment which they may not realise as it does not say so on the council website.

The last date for public comment is 14th Feb.

Details are here

 

SANDBACH ROAD NORTH, Alsager

The expected planning application for Sandbach Road North, opposite the Wilbrahams Arms, has been registered. This is yet another speculative proposal for a greenfield site. Please object. Apart from the usual concerns common to all these unwanted developments, there are serious ecological issues and the response from Cheshire Wildlife which uses words like “inaccurate” and “incomplete” plus comments about species surveys not being properly carried out is worth reading – the site is well-known for all sorts of wildlife and habitats. In fact the land owners themselves have, in the past, objected to other peoples’ planning applications, adjacent or near to their site, on ecological grounds.

The last date for public comment is 7th Feb.

Details are here

 

Potholes – update (2)

Our report on potholes has been completed and sent to Council Leader, Michael Jones with photographs. Apologies to those who have sent us emails very recently although they did not provide any new information. We are very grateful to everyone who has contributed. Thank you. We hope to be able to publish the report on this website soon.

If you have other concerns to bring to our attention, please do so but the topic of specific, dangerous potholes is considered closed, at least for the time being.

Please continue to use the Cheshire East website for reporting potholes. It would be very useful if you could keep a record of the date or the automated reply received and when repairs are made so that we may, in the future, be able to compile some data on the time it is taking to get repairs carried out – if at all. Other data that might be usefully compiled would be not just when repair(s) are seen to be done but exactly how long they last.

Potholes, an update

Thank you all once more for a splendid response and all the feedback on the worst potholes and also for the many expressions of support and appreciation for everything we are trying to do. We have received about fifty emails with reports on at least twenty six different problems.

Two recurring significant road safety issues have been raised concerning problems for cyclists and the increased accident risks from cyclists and drivers having to manoeuvre round potholes, into the middle or the wrong side of often narrow roads and doing so ’blind’ to oncoming  traffic. Two other recurring themes are the dreadful state of specific roads which need resurfacing as the only value-for-money remedy and obviously sub-standard repairs not lasting and having to be done again. There have also been complaints about reports to the council being repeatedly ignored. 

Re. Potholes

Thank you to all local residents who have emailed us about dangerous potholes around Alsager. We have had a good initial response but please keep the information coming in, we only have one opportunity to carry out this exercise so it needs to be comprehensive. We will be producing a complete schedule over the next few days prior to sending it to Cheshire East Council Leader, Michael Jones.

You can email us here

Thank you again.

POTHOLES

We need the help of Alsager residents in our follow-up to the meeting with the Leader of CheshireEast Council, Cllr Michael Jones.

Our report on that meeting included Cllr Jones’s response to the issue of the dangerous potholes that are all over Alsager’s roads and we need to send him details of the most hazardous ones next week, so that we can see if he is able to achieve a significant improvement of the state of our roads.

It is important that we identify only the really bad potholes, which are dangerous and likely to cause damage to vehicles and cycles, so that we do not undermine the seriousness of the problem by listing hundreds of the more minor troubles which must be addressed at some point.

If you are aware of very bad potholes in the area around Alsager and on the roads that we regularly commute, then please email brief details here , so that we show the bigger picture and demonstrate that we are concerned for everyone and not just our immediate neighbours.

Thank you.

Barthomley Action Group Meeting

There is a meeting of the Barthomley Action Group in Barthomley Village Hall Thursday, 10th January at 7.30 p.m. They have asked for our support! 

The proposed new villages and a business park around Barthomley will have a huge impact on our own area.  Please attend if you can.

Meeting with the Leader of Cheshire East Council

The scheduled meeting between ARAG and Michael Jones, the Leader of Cheshire East Council, went ahead at the ‘Westfields’ Headquarters on 8th January 2013.
Michael Jones’s deputy, Cllr David Brown did not attend because he was sick but Adrian Fisher, the Head of Strategic Planning, was present throughout the meeting.

All three ARAG officers were struck by the positive reception we met with during the meeting which we found, on several occasions, to be revealing and informative and we list below just a flavour of this information.

  • Council Leader, Michael Jones, totally supports the position of ARAG and the Town Strategy that Alsager’s Brownfield sites should be developed first with Greenfield site development regarded as subject to ‘exceptionality’.
  • Cllr Jones particularly welcomed the way in which ARAG had sought to represent the residents of Alsager and he assured us of regular access to both himself and Council Officers. This will include direct access to the Case Officers for all of the individual Developers Planning Applications.
  • We were given an undertaking that if we strongly drew attention to hazardous Pot Holes, in Alsager, Councillor Jones would ensure that they are mended.

A full report is now on the web site under ‘ARAG Officers meet with Cheshire East’.
You can see that document here

Meeting with Leader of the Cheshire East Council.

This week, ARAG is meeting with Michael Jones and David Brown, the Cheshire East Council Leader and his deputy.  As an input to and a basis for that meeting, we decided to document our position on the key issues as we see them.  This is now on the web site under ‘Current Position Statement’.  You can see that document here.

In particular, we will be asking them for details of the  protection they can provide for Alsager Residents from speculative greenfield development. 

We will post feedback from that meeting later in this week.

 

 

Cheshire East Development Strategy

First of all, we would like to wish our members a Happy New Year.

Lets hope it’s a good one.

Cheshire East Development Strategy

In January, the main activity which has an impact on building in and around Alsager, is public consultation on the Cheshire East Development Strategy. This is from 15th of January to 26th of February. The Development Strategy sets out the overall number of homes and employment land that will be needed in Cheshire East over the period to 2030.

You can find the Cheshire East documents here

The documents will also be available for inspection at the Alsager Town Council offices: 3 Lawton Road, between 10am and 1pm.

This is a substantial pdf document of around 250 pages but you will find the key references to Alsager in sections:

Page 11 Para 4.5

Page 23 Para 5.48

Pages 73 – 77  Paras 8.24, 8.25, 8.26, 8.27

Page 129 Table 8.2

Page 178 Figure E.3 & Page 179

One way to go through the document is to search for Alsager references ( enter ctrl f and this comes up with a search box)

Importance of the Cheshire East Development Strategy

This document is very important because it is a part of Cheshire East’s Emerging Local Plan. Although the whole Local Plan will not be complete until 2014, the Emerging Plan will be ‘given some weight’. The main point here is that if Cheshire East can not demonstrate a 5 year supply of housing land, the centrally run Building Inspectorate can and do overrule Cheshire East decisions. We are told that the Inspectorate will consider Cheshire East’s emerging plan in their deliberations when it has completed public consultation and has been accepted.

The rules governing these decisions are contained in the Governments National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Clearly, entirely inappropriate decisions are being made because of these rules however, there is no intent or will in Central Government to stop this from happening.

There is a very good example of such a situation in Congleton, where Cheshire East correctly rejected a proposal to build 200 houses on Loachbrook Farm. On appeal, because Cheshire East did not have a 5 year plan ( even though the old Congleton Borough plan still was in force) the Cheshire East decision was overturned by the Building Inspector and Central Government. Cheshire East is challenging this decision ( using ratepayers’ money – a lot of it ) and Central government are defending their position ( using tax payers’ money – a lot of it). This is a huge amount of public money and distraction over something that everyone ( including the Building Inspectorate) knows is wrong in the first place. He said in his report:

 ‘although the development would “locally intrude into the character and appearance” of the area, this was outweighed by the need to secure a 5-year supply of deliverable housing land that would also contribute to providing affordable and low cost housing’.

As an aside, recent analysis of the 2011 census is suggesting that the “need” doesn’t exist.

 So there is a dilemma, we need the Cheshire East development plan in place for protection but we also need to object where we see things that are wrong.

 Concerns with the Cheshire East Development Strategy.

The Development Strategy document is not consistent with the accepted Alsager Town plan. There has been no consultation on changes made by Cheshire East. Our main concerns today are:

  1. The housing total on the MMU site has been increased from 300 to 400.
  2. The total allocation of houses for Alsager has increased from 1,000 to 1,100.
  3. Area J from the Alsager Town Plan is incorrectly referred to as “former MMU Extension”. It has never been accepted as that.
  4. The document contains a section named “Strategic Alternatives”. The two sites identified are Area J ( Dunnocksfold Road across to Hassall Road ) and Fanny’s Croft ( greenbelt, South Alsager but not identified as such). This section should be titled ‘ Areas previously considered and rejected’ and there should be text explaining that these sites are not Strategic Alternatives, they are simply not available for building.  Good news, we have just been informed that this proposed change has been made to the document.

 As matters progress, we will post more information. Currently, the following Town Council meetings are scheduled: (this information is an extract from a Town Council mail)

 Planning Committee Meeting – Monday 4th February 2013 – Alsager Civic 7pm

(re-arranged from Tuesday 5thFebruary)

Members of the public are invited to come and give their views on the 2 documents in an extended public participation period. We (Town Council) have requested the attendance of a planning Officer from Cheshire East Council but this has been declined as the adopted policy is not to attend any Town and Parish Council meetings on this issue.

Town Council Meeting – Monday 18th February 2013 – Alsager Civic 7pm

(re-arranged from Tuesday 19th February)

Alsager Town Council will approve their response to both documents.

Current Proposals.

 There are a number of proposals at the moment, all of them are detailed on the web site. We will post as events come up to keep you informed.

 Greenfield Sites.

Close Lane 86 Technically in Haslington but impacting significantly on Alsager.
Dunnocksfold Rd 95 Target decision date- 15th Feb. 2013
Hassall Rd 30 Refused-currently under appeal
Hassall Rd 34 Awaiting planning meeting
Hall Drive 150 target decision date- Jan. 30th2013
Tilly Fields Target decision date-Dec.28th 2012
Sandbach Road North      155 Pre submission. No of dwellings 155

 

Brownfield Sites.

White Moss 1000 This too is in Haslington on the border with Alsager. As such it is outside our area but will have a significant impact upon Alsager, particularly its road system.
Twyfords site 335 Approved.
MMU 300-400 Numbers under discussion

Total proposed Greenfield houses is now 550.

Total Brownfield is now 1735.

Alsager’s quota in the town plan is 1,000 but currently increased by Cheshire East to 1,100.

 

Cheshire East Strategic Plan Concerns

There is a new page on the website called Cheshire East Strategic Plan, which contains the detail in this post and more.

Unfortunately, the Town Council could not accomodate a presentation and debate of what we consider to be ‘important issues with the Cheshire East Strategic Plan’.  We have produced a summary paper of our concerns and it is included below.  Also the e-mail sent to the town clerk is included.  

E-mail

Thank you for you responses to our request to have an emergency item on the Agenda for tonight’s meeting, we understand some of the difficulties which have prevented a rapid response.

In order to save the Council’s time and not take up valuable ‘Public Participation’ time, which, may be needed to raise other important public issues, I have attached a truncated version of the Presentation we would have made for circulation to your Members.
We assume that you can do this by reporting it as an urgent item of correspondence. We will not be attending the meeting.

I should emphasise that the truncated version is backed up by extensive research, and detailed source references, and that every issue identified is factually correct and will be, I am sure, of great concern to Members.
Sadly, we are of the view that delaying a formal meeting, until we are into the New Year, will mean that we will be too late to achieve essential amendments to the Cheshire East Draft Development Strategy before it goes out for consultation!

We look forward to dealing with this in the near future. 

Report

Alsager Residents Action Group Issues with the Draft Cheshire East Strategy and Alsager Town Plan.

 

  • On Saturday the Residents Action Group received information from Fiona Bruce that indicates that the Alsager Town Plan will count for nothing unless it is embedded accurately and consistently in the Cheshire East Development Strategy. This is not an insignificant issue, Fiona Bruce cites the specific example of Hind Heath in Sandbach which has been approved on appeal for development although it was discounted in the Town Plan which ‘carries little weight’ until it is fully embedded in the Cheshire East Local Plan. In other words we can reject Developments such as Hall Drive, Dunnocksfold, Close Lane, Hassall Road and all the rest but this will count for nothing when Developers appeal to the Inspectorate based upon inconsistencies in Cheshire East representation of the Alsager Town Plan.

 

  • We have attended a meeting of the Cheshire East Planning Board and carefully analysed its draft documentation. In this process we have uncovered a number of ambiguities, inconsistencies, loopholes and disparities in how the Alsager Town Plan – regarded in the process as an ‘evidence base document’ – is currently represented in the Cheshire East documents. These are so serious, potentially, that they will constitute a Developer’s Charter to ride roughshod over the expressed views of Alsager residents. It is, therefore, a matter of urgency that these issues are addressed before the Consultation on those documents commences.

 

  • It will not be adequate to suggest that these corrections can be made during that consultation. As we have found with the passage of the draft Alsager Town Plan, this will let the toothpaste out of the tube and the Town Council will not be in a position to get it back in. Therefore, there needs to be a formal process undertaken with urgency by the Town Council if these matters are to be satisfactorily addressed in ways that will reflect the views of the community.

 

  • To give you a flavour of the issues about which we are concerned:

 

    1. There are inconsistencies in the total numbers of homes to be built in Alsager during the Planning period; there are inconsistencies in the numbers of houses planned for Brown Field sites usually suggesting that there could be higher numbers

 

    1. It is one thing to record that the Town Plan process resulted in the consideration of a number of sites that were subsequently ‘discounted’ from that Town Plan; it is quite another to include those rejected sites under the Heading of Strategic Sites – Alternatives

 

    1. Cheshire East documents currently re-import Area J and Fanny’s Croft back into the frame for potential development where these sites were ‘discounted’ in the final approved version of the Town Plan. Furthermore the Cheshire East document makes no reference to the fact that the Fanny’s Croft site is in green belt. Additionally, and equally disturbing, Area J is referred to as ‘former MMU extension’ which is an erroneous and misleading term.

 

This is a Planning context in which we cannot afford inconsistencies whether caused by clerical error, administrative translation of the Town Plan by Cheshire East Planning Officers or even deliberate and calculated policy agendas. If these inconsistencies are allowed to stand we will be allowing speculative Developers the opportunity to exploit them for their own self-interested ends. The costs will be borne by the residents of Alsager.

Draft Cheshire East Strategy – Alsager Problems

We have been looking in detail at the draft Cheshire East Strategy Document, which is the basis for that council’s emerging plan.  There are a number of differences and inconsistencies between that document and the Alsager Town Plan which we regard as serious.  A recent letter received from Fiona Bruce, our MP made it clear that the Cheshire East council’s emerging plan is the principal document which can provide some level of protection from speculative building proposals.  She also made it clear that she is urging Cheshire East council to start public consultation of it’s document as quickly as possible.  

We are asking the Town Council to allow us to give a presentation of these problems at the Town Council meeting at the Alsager Institute on Tuesday 18/12/2012 at 7.0 p.m. so that we can make it fully aware of the problems we face and so that we can work with it to correct these problems as quickly as possible.  It is important that we have the protection of the Cheshire East emerging plan but the plan in our view has to be watertight and totally consistent with the agreed Alsager Town Plan.  

We will post again tomorrow to let you know if this presentation will take place and hope that there will be public support at that meeting.

End of Week Update,

The planning application to place a Co-Op banner on the green in front of the library ( 12/4058C ) has now been withdrawn on the Cheshire East web site. 

The last date  for comment on Dunnocksfold Road is 20/12/2012 and the last date for Hall Drive is 19/12/2012.  We have had a significant increase in the number of objections for Dunnocksfold Road, currently up to 123 and Hall Drive is now up to a very healthy  326.  Dunnocksfold Road still needs a lot more, so please do everything you can to object and ask friends and neighbours also to object.

The first Hassall Road application 12/1670C was correctly rejected by Cheshire East.  The developer has now lodged an appeal, which you can see here .  The reason given is as expected, that Cheshire East can not demonstrate a 5 year supply of land.  We have been assured that the emerging Cheshire East Plan, because it conforms with the National Planning Policy Guidelines (NPPF) and according to advice issued by  Eric Pickles and Fiona Bruce, offers protection against this kind of speculative proposal.  In this case, the proposed development is on land specifically excluded from the Alsager Town plan.  The Alsager plan conforms with Government and Cheshire East standards.  It is also the expressed view of Alsager residents.  Build on Brownfield before Green.  We will keep you posted on developments.

Dunnocksfold Road Objections

Time is moving on and the deadline for objections to the Dunnocksfold Road proposal is 20/12/2012.  Currently, there are 92 comments on the Cheshire East Web site, most of which are objections.  We really need to get the numbers up, so please get your objections in.

Cheshire East Strategy

Cheshire East is in the process of agreeing their draft Strategic Plan before it is made available for public consultation.  The relevant documents can be found here.  ARAG has expressed concern to the Town Council that the Alsager Housing allocation which was defined in the agreed Alsager Town Plan has been increased from 1,000 to 1,100.  Furthermore, the numbers for the MMU site and the other sites are inconsistent with the Alsager Town Plan.  As well as the numbers, two areas specifically excluded from the Alsager Town plan ( Area J and Fanny’s Croft) are included in the Cheshire East draft document under the heading ‘Strategic Sites – Alternatives’.  

Cheshire East have said that these sites are only included because they were considered and rejected.  

When / if this document is accepted, it should offer a level of protection against speculative building proposals as it will be part of the Cheshire East emerging plan and as such it should be given some weight in the decisions being made by planning officials.  The issue of how much weight should be given, is one of the questions we have recently put to Fiona Bruce, our MP and we are expecting a response soon.

We will keep you posted on the public consultation process.

Co-Op Banner

The Co-Operative society have applied for planning permission to erect a temporary 32′  by 5′ banner on the green outside the library announcing that the ‘New Co-Op is open’  for the next 6 months.   This is not to say that ARAG is against the Co-Op in any way, it isn’t but we do feel that this banner, like any such banner would be very intrusive on our Town Centre.  If you agree and wish to object, you can either state your objections on the Cheshire East Web site here this is for planning application 12/4058C or make your views known to the Town Council.

Close Lane 86 Houses

Yet another Greenfield proposal  has been announced, this time for 86 houses and a nursing home in Close Lane, opposite Spencer Close. This site is not within the Alsager Town boundary, it is in the Haslington parish but it effectively extends the Alsager boundary, it would use Alsager facilities and have an Alsager address.  

The Alsager Town Plan states that the Alsager housing requirement will be met from our Brownfield sites and this of course is another speculative Greenfield proposal which contravenes Town policies.

At the time of posting, Cheshire East are having a meeting which should adopt the Alsager Town Plan as a part of their emerging strategy and this should provide protection and be adequate justification to reject the proposal.  Muller, the property group based in Alsager, have a web site which shows their intentions at www.closelane.co.uk.  Muller ask for feedback so that they can improve their bid.  They will also have an exhibition in the Civic Centre(which of course is in Alsager), so you can voice your opinions then as well.

Any detail you supply will  be helping Muller in their attempts to build on another of our Greenfields although it would certainly be a good thing to let them know it isn’t wanted and is in conflict with our Town Plan and therefore the expressed wishes of Alsager residents.  Muller, as far as we are aware,  have not  submitted a planning application.  When they do, there will be an opportunity for all of us to mount a seriously challenge.

Town Council Vote Against Building proposals

The Alsager Town Council at a well attended meeting (5/12/2012) voted unanimously and in the strongest terms  to reject the Hall Drive(12/4150C)  and Dunnocksfold Road (12/4146C) building proposals.  This position will be communicated to the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board who will make the decisions to accept or reject these proposals in February 2013.

The text of these rejections will go on this web site when it becomes available.

One of the main points against both of these speculative building proposals is that they do not conform with the Alsager Town Plan.  The Cheshire East Strategic Planning board meets today ( 6/12/2012) to discuss their Housing Development Strategy for Cheshire East.  It is expected that Cheshire East will accept that strategy document on 10th December.  There will then be public consultation and this means that an agreed emerging plan should exist from around 15/1/2013 and this will contain the Alsager Town Plan.  Alsager will be well represented at that meeting.

The Cheshire East Emerging Plan will provide strong reasons for the planning board to reject any application that does not conform with the Alsager Town Plan.

Every building proposal for a greenfield site that does not conform with our Town Plan is a threat to Alsager as a whole.  It is essential that the Residents of Alsager express their points of view and make their feelings known on both the Dunnocksfold Road and the Hall Drive proposals.  Please get your objections in.  We currently have 250 objections in for Hall Drive and 49 for Dunnocksfold Road and more are needed.  

The end date for objections is 20/12/2012.

 

Don’t leave it to others. They may be leaving it to you.

CPRE Responds to Nick Boles

CPRE responds to Nick Boles.

 Last week saw Nick Boles, the government Minister for Planning, making several media appearances in which he argued for house building to be increased and where necessary to also increase building on additional green field land. His appearances also drew much attention in the media as he described much new house building as ‘pig ugly’.

 On Sunday Sir Andrew Motion in his role as Chairman of the Council for the Protection of the English Countryside commented on the position outlined by the Tory Minister for Planning last Wednesday and reported widely in the media:

 His response to the Boles statement he describes as ‘somewhere between horror and enormous anger’.

 Quotations from Sir Andrew Motion: Chairman of CPRE and former Poet Laureate ( Source The Observer 02.12.2012 )

 ‘Nick Boles has clearly spent a lot of his life in thinktanks. And he has the kind of attitude you imagine went down quite well in a thinktank. Slightly abrasive, irksome, ruffling feathers. But to talk so blithely about these issues where so many people’s lives and so much of our land is at stake is just incredibly irresponsible.’

 ‘On just about every level what he said was wrong. Start at the level of fact: he said 9% of our countryside is bricked over; by CPRE reckoning it is actually already more like 12%. And that doesn’t take into account the collateral effects of development. About 50% of our land is already compromised in some way or another.’

 ‘….the underlying problem is this idea that in a difficult economic time you can just lighten the burden of planning regulation as a kind of short-term fix. That is not how it works. Once you develop a piece of land it is gone forever as countryside. Clearly there are issues around housing, but clearly also not enough is being done to develop brownfield sites.

 And we know what will happen if this goes through: builders will slap up new estates in the most desirable places; they will snap up prime land in addition to the vast tracts of undeveloped land they own already. As we know the real reason why no one is building or buying houses is that mortgages are so hard to come by.’

 He describes the countryside as ‘the great national masterpiece’ which organisations like CPRE are seeking to preserve in the interests of everyone and he talks about the ways in which such organisations are trying to increase access to the countryside especially for urban kids (He lives in Kentish Town in London).

White Moss Quarry 1000 houses

It has been proposed that quarrying stops at White Moss Quarry and that a planning submission is made for 1,000 houses.  White Moss Quarry is just outside the Alsager town boundary and falls under Haslington but such a large development will obviously have a massive impact on Alsager.

Tilly Fields, Nursery Road, Oakhanger

Cheshire East Planning Department is in receipt of an application for a
smallholding at Tilly Fields, Nursery Road, Oakhanger, reference:
12/2922N. When travelling west up Nursery Road over the  motorway
bridge, it is the field on the right just after the entrance to
Oakhanger Aquatics. There is also a footpath along one of the
boundaries

The field abuts a Ramsar site, the only one in our vicinity. This
Ramsar site is of special scientific interest and is protected by
European Law. It contains fauna found nowhere else in the world. It is
already degrading and is currently under investigation by Natural
England.  It is of concern too that the application is open ended as
the development is not complete and consequently not detailed on the
application also it is contrary to the Crewe and Nantwich Local Plan.

If you have an interest in protecting our environment; objection to
this application would be most welcome.
The closing date for letters of objections (or emails) is 5th December 2012.

 

Some words from a resident:

 

I have often walked over Tilly Fields. The track and surrounding areas are beautiful, especially in the frosts and mists of wintertide. This is an important recreational route for the residents of Alsager and Oakhanger, and an area unlike any others in the area.

That is probably because it is immediately adjacent to a designated site of special scientific interest. It has all kinds of wildlife ranging from the common (rabbit, hare, fox, as well as a very full range of birds including all kinds of finch, wren, and the more common species like tits and sparrows) to the rarer (deer, badger and smaller forest fauna, woodpeckers, nuthatches, goldfinch, jay) and some flora that are absolutely unique world-wide. It is therefore an area protected by British and European law from being allowed to degrade, let alone from being developed upon. Its condition is already the subject of an investigation by Natural England, so they would be down on Cheshire East like a ton of bricks if this proposal were approved.

It is the greenest of green field sites, quite unnecessarily in an area where there are more than sufficient brown field sites nearby in Crewe, Haslington, Winterley and Alsager for the housing needs of the next decade or two.

Crewe and Nantwich borough developed a local plan when the borough existed, which excludes this land from development. This plan is still in force and valid and should be adhered to.

Access is dire, along long and winding single track roads in both directions. Even if the roads were upgraded at the cost of millions, they would tip a large percentage increase in traffic onto the road to Winterley.

This long, winding single track road is well used throughout its length by walkers, riders and cyclists as being a safe route. It would no longer be so: even with current levels of development cars sometimes impede each other and other road users.

Drainage of the fields there is dismal. The land is waterlogged for most of the time from early autumn to late spring, and worse this year with the wet summer.

To my knowledge there are no sewers and completely inadequate electricity and water supply for a housing development in that location. These would add to the millions needed for access upgrade.

Hall Drive Demonstration

Demonstration of support for Hall Drive objections.  Photo in the field Saturday 24th November 11am (be there for 10.45am) – we have invited local press down to the fields off Hall Drive to chat/photograph us. We will need to get as many people in the field as possible to show the strength of our objections, so bring yourselves and as many people as you can !!

Hall Drive

Resident objections are needed for the Hall Drive proposal see CURRENT GREENFIELD PROPOSALS for details.  We have managed to significantly increase the Hassall Road objections over the last 2 days, lets see what we can do with Hall Drive.

Urgent Action Required

Only 1 day left to raise objections on the Hassall Road planning submission.

You can find the e-mail form for objections here.

This page also provides background information and you can view other objections.

Sandbach Road North proposal

A new development is being proposed on land off Sandbach Road North, opposite the Wibraham Arms.

A web site exists to express your views  here but bear in mind that at this stage, any feedback is  information for the developer and that a planning submission is not yet visible.

This land is greenfield and it was identified by Cheshire East in its own SHLAA (strategic housing land availability assessment)  document but it is recognised there as not suitable.  This is a good example of developers making speculative bids  on greenfield land outside the Town and Cheshire East plans.

Hassall Road Planning Application

Planning application 12/3905C  is for 34 houses on a greefield site adjacent to Heath End Farm on Hassall Road.

The last date for comments is 14/11/2012 and the decision meeting is 10/12/2012.

The e-mail form to raise objections can be found here.  The e-mail form is available under actions available.

Public Meeting 12/11/2012

There will be a public meeting in the Alsager Civic Centre main hall on Monday November 12th starting at 19.00 hrs.

The purpose of the meeting is to inform residents of the current state of new building planning applications and to establish an action group of actively interested people, focussed on retaining the character of our village.  The main emphasis will be:  on trying to halt building on green fields, on emphasising the need to used the brown field sites and challenging the need for new building in Alsager in the first place.