Cheshire East Council is moving decisively to respond to the Planning Inspector’s comments on the Borough’s Local Plan.
Councillor David Brown who has been working tirelessly on the blueprint for development of the Borough up to 2030 has decided to step aside from overseeing the plan.
Cheshire East is now creating a Task Force to drive and coordinate the work to address the inspector’s concerns and strengthen the Local Plan.
Council Leader Michael Jones said: “Councillor Peter Raynes will now lead this Task Force to expedite the process and reduce to as short as possible any delay to the Local Plan being examined and adopted.
“Peter will be ably assisted by former Cabinet member Councillor Jamie Macrae, who has a fantastic background within planning and economic development. We will also continue to listen to residents and involve external partners.
“It is important for everybody to be reassured that we have listened and will continue to listen to people to make sure we get the Local Plan right as soon as possible.”
Cheshire East received a report last week from the Planning Inspector providing his interim views on the soundness and legal compliance of the Council’s Local Plan.
The inspector has agreed that, in preparing the Local Plan, the Council has complied with its duty to cooperate and its strategy for towns and villages. He has, however, expressed concern as to whether the draft Local Plan provides for sufficient homes to meet future need by 2030.
The Council is minded to pause the examination to allow further work to be undertaken to address the inspector’s concerns, which is likely to be completed within six months.
Councillor Peter Raynes, who is Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “As a long-term resident of Cheshire East, I have a passion to maintain the precious landscape of our beautiful Borough. But, at the same time, this Council recognises the need to produce a Local Plan that meets the needs of the future.
“I cannot think of a more important task to be involved in.”
Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Cabinet member in charge of strategic outcomes, said: “In order to ensure the best chance for the Cheshire East Local Plan to succeed, I have decided to take a backward step from overseeing the Local Plan to allow a fresh pair of eyes and perspective to be brought to bear.
“I believe this is the best solution for the way forward as I have spent many hours and met many residents during the production of the plan.
“The Local Plan has been a massive undertaking: the Council has received more than 40,000 responses from residents and organisations, which were collated, assessed and fed into the submission version of the Local Plan Strategy. The strategy has also undergone nine rounds of public consultation since 2010.
“Since the Local Plan was approved by the Council, on February 28, 2014, the Government has come out with a new assessment methodology – the National Planning Policy Guidance – on March 6 this year, and therefore new housing calculations and employment figures will have to be calculated.
“Our economic growth and projected jobs creation has been outstanding – even beyond our expectations, with the unemployment rate down to 1.2 per cent in the Borough and just 0.9 per cent in Congleton for example – so we now have to review our housing numbers.
“Now it is time for others to assess the Planning Inspector’s comments in total – to make sure we can address all the issues that have been raised.”