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Saturday 12 January 2013

Council fights controversial Hind Heath appeal decision


Cheshire East Council is to take legal action to try to overturn the controversial granting at appeal of planning permission for more than 250 homes on a Sandbach greenfield site.

The local authority says that the Government ruling has not applied planning law correctly and therefore should be challenged in the High Court.

Proposals for a mix of one, two and three-bedroom homes on 7.5 acres of agricultural fields off Hind Heath Road, in Wheelock, were first unveiled in June 2010, prompting a backlash from residents.

Cheshire East’s Strategic Planning Board unanimously threw out the application for the development of 269 dwellings and a 3m-wide shared footpath/cycleway next to a section of Hind Heath Road in October 2010.

Members ruled that the development was unsuitable, posed a threat to the landscape, was an unsustainable development and that more suitable brownfield sites were available elsewhere.

The developers, Richborough Estates, appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and a public inquiry was launched. In its appeal, Richborough argued that there was a shortfall of deliverable housing sites in the area, stating that the Council did not have the required five-year supply of housing land in the town.

In July 2011, Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles dismissed the bid, overruling the findings of the Planning Inspector Derek Thew, and supporting the Council’s original decision.

But Richborough Estates appealed again – this time to the High Court, which quashed Mr Pickle’s decision and ordered a second inquiry.

Last month, after considering the appeal, the Secretary of State announced he would grant planning permission for the development.

Today (January 11) Cheshire East Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones said: “Our towns and villages are under siege from an unprecedented onslaught of unplanned and unsustainable development proposals.

“We will therefore scrutinise carefully all planning appeal decisions to ensure that they apply planning policy and planning law correctly. In this case we believe the Secretary of State has made an error in law – and had he not done so, a different outcome could well have been reached in the case.

“It is no easy task to overturn a planning decision through the courts and we do not undertake such challenges lightly. Nevertheless, the fact that we are prepared to go to the High Court demonstrates our commitment to defend our towns from unsustainable development, where we believe there are good grounds for doing so.

“Let me be clear: we want and need growth to ensure our future prosperity. But we need to ensure developments are planned properly after listening to local people – and that they reinforce, rather than undermine, our Local Plan, based on a vision that we can all agree.

“It is very disappointing that the Secretary of State has made this decision at a time when we have just published an ambitious Local Plan Development Strategy which promotes substantial new jobs and homes across the Borough.

“We would much prefer to work with the development industry on delivering our new plan than fighting them in this way. I have even met with Richborough Estates to ask them to change their approach.

“We will soon have an adopted Local Plan in place – and the days of unplanned speculative development are clearly numbered. I’d like developers to see that the writing is on the wall – and to work with us on our significant planned development proposals across Cheshire East.

“In the meantime, this legal action is regrettably necessary to help ensure a greener and more civilised future for all our towns – and Cheshire East Council will fight to protect the people of Cheshire East and their families.”

The Council is already taking steps to counteract the unprecedentedly-high volume of planning applications for housing. We are acting to:

· Produce a new Local Plan in a thorough but timely fashion that will promote the growth we need while protecting the areas we cherish;

· Demonstrate the five-year supply of housing land as required by Government policy

· Lobby Government ministers to ensure the National Planning Policy Framework is interpreted properly at planning appeals with greater emphasis on sustainable development;

· Request that the Planning Inspectorate support Cheshire East Council’s policy of plan-led and sustainable development; and

· Work with the construction industry to boost home building on sites that are already accepted for development.

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