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