A planning inspector has backed Cheshire East’s Local Plan for shaping future development in the borough.
It follows three years of public comments and submissions on the council’s proposed strategic blueprint for the borough’s development to 2030.
The report by Planning Inspector Stephen Pratt gives the Local Plan ‘a clean bill of health’ and means the council can now move ahead with the document’s formal adoption within weeks. The receipt of the inspector’s report brings the Local Plan examination to a formal close.
Importantly, his report says the Local Plan, once adopted, will secure ‘at least’ a five-year supply of housing land to meet projected need. This will provide a vital protection against inappropriate or unsustainable housing proposals from developers.
Councillor Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council said: “This is good news for Cheshire East and a major step forward for residents and businesses alike.
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “The Local Plan is the council’s most important tool for shaping development in Cheshire East to 2030 – so this is great news.
“The council is grateful for the inspector’s report, which now enables us, after a lot of hard work by our planning team, to press ahead and adopt the Local Plan in a few weeks’ time.
“The inspector acknowledged that our Local Plan was one of the most complex and consulted upon he had seen in his more than 20 years’ experience. His report shows that any shortcomings identified in the process have now been rectified and, with the published modifications, the Local Plan now has a clean bill of health.
“There has been a tremendous response from our residents and other stakeholders during the extensive 13 rounds of public consultations on our proposals and I’m sure it has allowed everyone to feel they had the opportunity to have their say.
“Our Local Plan has been shown to be both comprehensive and robust and will give the people of Cheshire East its best protection against unplanned and unsustainable development.”
The focus of public consultation earlier this year was on the changes the council proposed to the plan it originally submitted to the Secretary of State in May 2014, in light of interim views by the planning inspector during examination.
This included additional and amended strategic site allocations to accommodate the larger scale of growth now expected and planned for in the borough.
The council received a total of more than 60,000 comments during the various consultations to arrive at the finalised Local Plan. This represents an unprecedented level of interest in a council consultation process.
The inspector’s new report fully supports the approach to housing, infrastructure and employment development across Cheshire East – rejecting both more ambitious and more pessimistic assessments of future needs.
Planning Inspector Mr Pratt said in his report: “I conclude that Cheshire East Council has 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.”
Cheshire East’s Local Plan includes provision for a housing requirement of at least 36,000 new homes and 380 hectares of development land, to reflect a stronger anticipated jobs growth rate of 0.7 per cent per annum.
The inspector also endorsed all of the 60-plus strategic sites within the Local Plan, including large-scale proposals, such as the North Cheshire Garden Village at Handforth.
The report supports the council’s strategy of making modest amendments to green belt land and also endorses the other key policies regarding the maintaining of ‘green gap’ land between settlements.
The plan’s revised spatial distribution of development incorporates both the uplift in overall development and the need for additional growth in the northern towns. However, less than two per cent of the borough’s green belt land will be affected by the increased development need.
For further information about the Local Plan, recent consultations and links to key documents, visit our website at: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan