Cheshire East Council has hit out at the government for granting a planning appeal in the borough, calling it a ‘significant blow’ to local confidence in the planning system.
In an open letter to the housing secretary Robert Jenrick, the council expressed dismay at the decision to permit Muller Property Group’s proposals for a mixed-use development at Stapeley near Nantwich, saying it goes against the borough’s Local Plan.
Councillors say the decision in favour of the 189-home development ‘undermines’ local decision making, warning that it will ‘likely lead to a further scramble for developers to seek permission for other unplanned sites’.
The quarrel hints at an ongoing clash between local councils and national government as councils find themselves pressured to support the government’s national house building drive.
Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, and Cllr Toni Fox, the council’s cabinet member for planning, wrote in their joint letter: “We are… dismayed by your decision to allow the planning appeal at Stapeley, despite the clear conflict with development plan policies on the grounds that it delivers more housing.
“Many thousands of Cheshire East residents have engaged in the Local Plan process over many years and have also been involved in the development of more than 30 neighbourhood plans across the borough. Your decision to place such significant weight on the delivery of housing undermines the principles of effective plan making.”
“It will leave many, particularly around Nantwich, to question why they bothered. The decision flies in the face of the government’s stated commitment to a plan-led system.”
Cheshire East Council’s Local Plan aims to build an ‘appropriate level’ of housing in the borough, with a target of building 36,000 homes by 2030. The council says the plan aims to bring forward homes in a ‘sustainable manner’ by ensuring that developments have supporting infrastructure.
The council originally rejected permission for the speculative development amidst concerns that it would build on green belt land and would lead to local traffic congestion.
Last month, Jenrick overturned the decision, ruling that the development would ultimately help to provide further affordable housing in Cheshire East.
The council said the decision to grant planning permission will not only upset residents but also risks diverting resources from allocated site applications.
The councillors added in their letter to Jenrick: “Cheshire East is an area promoting substantial plan-led growth, yet it is still vulnerable to unplanned, speculative housing development.
“The public’s confidence that up-to-date plans provide certainty as to what development they will see take place in their local area has taken a significant blow.
“Your decision will inevitably have further consequences and will likely lead to a further scramble for developers to seek permission for other unplanned sites.”
The council has decided not to mount a legal challenge against the government’s decision but instead to go public with its reservations.
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “As the decision letter explains, the wide range of issues raised in this matter have been taken into account based on the detailed findings of the planning inspector.”