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.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.