planning - Janet Clowes, Conservative group leader cheshire east council 2019

Dear Editor,

I was pleased to read of Cheshire East Council’s success last week, in securing a High Court Order against a significant incursion onto agricultural land in the Green Belt at Mobberley.

The final Judgement Report set me thinking.

Planning Enforcement is a complex area which is generally poorly understood and for which we tend to have excessive expectations.

It was a shock to learn when I became a councillor, that it’s not ‘illegal’ to build without planning permission – but of course it’s an enormous risk if what you build is not compliant with planning policy!

The focus of planning enforcement is usually to determine “If this development had come forward in the usual way, would it have been permitted?” – often the answer is “yes” and the development is allowed.

However the ‘devil is in the detail’ and some of the most contentious enforcement issues experienced by councillors and their residents, are those related to approved developments where important conditions, included for the long-term safety and amenity of residents, are deliberately flouted.

In November 2020, the Labour-Independent administration updated the CE planning enforcement policy, which makes clear where breaches occur and how they will be prioritised for attention.

However despite this, councillors across the borough can describe significant enforcement issues that still require resolution years after they were first reported.

Cllr Marc Asquith and I raised this issue again last week at Full Council with regard to on-going enforcement issues significantly blighting the lives of over a thousand residents in a single village in the Wybunbury Ward and large numbers of residents in the Ollerton with Marthall Parish.

Since then, other councillors have shared planning enforcement issues, for example those being tackled by Cllr Lesley Smetham across the Gawsworth Ward – and no doubt readers of this letter will have similar tales to tell.

It seems obvious that if the maintenance of a Country Park (Public Open Space) at Wychwood Village in Weston is a condition of the development, the failure to maintain it for seven years, (where public safety and poor accessibility is now a real problem), then this is a significant breach.

If it is a condition to return the site of the demolished temporary golf clubhouse on the same development site, to its original agricultural state by 2015, then to be still waiting in 2021 is a significant breach – you get the idea!

We understand that money is tight, Covid restrictions have slowed things down, enforcement staff are in short supply and the demand is high, but enforcement of significant planning breaches is not an optional extra – it is a statutory duty.

Consequently, where long-standing issues are having significant and unacceptable impacts on the health, well-being and quality of life of affected residents, then policies and priorities either need to be urgently reassessed or properly implemented.

Cheshire East residents deserve better.

Yours,

Cllr Janet Clowes: Wybunbury Ward
CE Conservative Group Leader

6 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Well we’ve got a government that wants to relax planning rules as its hellbent on build build build, a secretary of state who rides roughshod over local democracy and an MP who is ineffective at standing up for us against his party chums in Westminster. Very little hope. Goodbye green fields.

  2. Scott says:

    Not really when the NPPF states enforcement is discretionary.

    The demand of enforcement complaints will always outweigh the supply of enforcement officers and unless this area is properly funded it will continue to be so.

    • Taylor says:

      If not statutory,lets hope that the human rights /welfare of those affected by any breaches would be dealt with by CEC.

  3. Martin Bond says:

    With so many enforcement issues arising it is difficult for a council to chase them all up when this government starves councils across the country of the funds, and Cheshire East is no exception. Perhaps Councillor Clowes would do better to petition our local MPs for a properly funded local government.

    • Taylor says:

      Not really an excuse for not carrying out statuary duties.Officers of all council departments have always had to carry out such duties with staffing issues/restrictions etc

      • Mark says:

        But there has been significant change in planning resource. Crewe and Nantwich had a dedicated heritage officer 15 years ago and now two people cover the whole of Cheshire East. You can’t expect effective enforcement without the people to do it.

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