Cheshire East Council has welcomed the planning inspector’s latest views on the Borough’s Local Plan.
Following the resumption of the Local Plan examination in August and the holding of seven days of hearings in October, Local Plan Inspector Stephen Pratt has now issued his ‘further interim views’.
These broadly support the further evidential work carried out by the Council over the past 12 months in relation to the Local Plan.
The inspector noted that: “There is no doubt that Cheshire East Council has produced an impressive and comprehensive set of additional evidence within a relatively limited amount of time during the suspension of the examination.”
In terms of the economy, the inspector supported in principle the Council’s jobs growth estimate of 0.7 per cent per annum, saying that ‘CEC seems to have adopted a balanced and rational approach to economic and jobs growth, which is both ambitious and aspirational, yet realistic and with a reasonable prospect of success’.
On housing, the objectively assessed need (OAN) for 36,000 new homes was also broadly supported.
He said: “CEC seems to have reached a reasonably balanced judgement about the relationship between new jobs and houses, which is supported by the evidence and would result in sustainable levels of migration and commuting and patterns of development, in line with the guidance in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) and planning practice guidance (PPG).”
Other supporting evidence was also judged to be appropriate. The inspector noted that ‘The approach set out in the green belt update assessment seems to reflect national policy and address most of the shortcomings of the previous green belt assessment’.
The suggested amount of ‘safeguarded land’ was also considered ‘logical, rational, effective and justified by the supporting evidence’.
Similarly, the distribution of development was thought to be based on ‘sound technical and professional judgements and a balancing exercise, which reflects a comprehensive and coherent understanding of the characteristics, development needs, opportunities and constraints of each settlement’.
However, the inspector also stressed that he could not reach definitive conclusions on most of these matters until further consultation had been held and the site-specific aspects of the Local Plan had been examined.
Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member in charge of the Local Plan said: “I am delighted that the inspector has broadly supported the Council’s approach.
“With his endorsement in principle, we can now press full ahead in progressing the Local Plan to its later stages. The next step will be to present a comprehensive set of proposed changes to a full meeting of the Council before carrying out wide-ranging public consultation over a six-week period.
“I would like to thank all those who participated in the recent in the recent examination hearings and look forward to ongoing engagement as the Local Plan process continues.
“We appreciate that the inspector cannot reach any final views at this stage – and that the revised evidence naturally requires significant change to the submitted strategy. However we now have a clear sense of how to move forward.
“This shows that our diligent efforts over the past year have proved well worthwhile and I believe the Local Plan is now on a firm footing and moving in the right direction.”