Cabinet leader Cllr Sam Corcoran - transit site

Cheshire East Cabinet councillors insist plans for a transit site at Cledford Hall are “not yet set in stone” and they will listen to what residents think, writes Stephen Topping.

At a special meeting today (Tuesday August 6) in front of a packed public gallery at Westfields, Cheshire East Council gave the go-ahead for the next round of consultation on the second part of its local plan.

Formally known as the Site Allocations and Development Policies Document (SADPD), it proposes 10 transit pitches for gypsies and travellers at Cledford Hall in Middlewich – the site CEC previously held planning permission for before running out of time.

But independent Cllr Toni Fox, cabinet member for planning, promised councillors and residents the consultation would be “a consultation in its true sense” and urged members of the public to have their say.

She said: “Unfortunately, [this] had been kicked into the long grass by the previous cabinet and I appreciate there are strong feelings about the proposed site allocations.

“I am currently reviewing these with officers and any suggestions for other alternative, available and suitable sites that could be considered would be welcomed.”

Plans for a transit site at Cledford Hall were fiercely opposed last time around, but CEC confirmed it was considering reviving the scheme in June following a string of unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments across the borough, including many on Barony Park in Nantwich.

Independent Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of CEC, added the sites included in the SADPD “are not yet set in stone” while alternatives could be considered “where they are back by strong evidence”.

And Middlewich Labour councillors Jonathan Parry and Carol Bulman looked to provide that after the pair handed over a report assessing why Cledford Hall is not suitable for a transit site.

The report – which looks at best practice guidelines previously set by Government – suggests Cledford Hall is too close to the Ansa site in Cledford Lane, has poor access to schools because of a lack of pavements on the road, and would be too close to Middlewich’s settled traveller community, which could cause conflict.

“We all know this council has dragged its heels in building a site but this does not mean that we should rush things now,” Cllr Parry added.

“This is a new council with a chance to change things. We can do things properly and fairly and avoid the possibility of any future problems.”

But Barony Park, in Nantwich, has been hit by 10 unauthorised encampments so far this year.

And Cllr Peter Groves, Conservative, called on the cabinet to “reaffirm its commitment to expediting the Cledford site”.

Referencing comments made to the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week by Cllr Parry, Cllr Groves said both he and Nantwich residents were “surprised and somewhat disappointed” by his stance against a site which had previously secured planning permission.

But Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, insisted he would not commit to anything proposed in the SADPD until consultation had taken place.

He added: “If [Middlewich councillors] think putting a transit site at Cledford Hall is bad for their communities then I would expect them to stand up for their communities.”

The SADPD will now go to consultation on August 19 for six weeks.

Cabinet will then consider the results and decide whether the proposals should be amended – and if so, another round of consultation would take place.

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