Local Plan - Rural View

Cheshire East has adopted the second part of its local plan with some councillors voting against it, writes Belinda Ryan.

Some warned at the council meeting this week that planners would have to go back to the drawing board if it was rejected.

Cheshire East Mayor David Marren told councillors: “At this stage there’s no opportunity for any other material changes to be made to plan prior to its adoption.”

He said if the SADPD (Site Allocations and Development Policies Document) was not adopted it would be delayed by at least two years, “so this is, literally, a pass or fail today”.

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) was critical of the plan but said she would vote for it “because I certainly don’t want another two years of delay and dither”.

She said it was “fundamentally the same” as the 2018 document so why had it taken three years.

“One of the reasons for stopping this process in 2019 was to see whether or not new sites could be found for Traveller transit sites,” said the Conservative group leader.

“And what did we find? That actually the sites identified were the best sites and they are in this document too.”

Audlem councillor Rachel Bailey (Con), one of 12 councillors to vote against the SADPD, said it was “the most consulted plan known to man that hasn’t made the Guinness Book of Records”.

She said while it was always welcome when sites were not required for development and she did not have an issue with them being removed, it would place greater reliance on windfall sites and “there is no recognition of what happens to villages where there are no windfall sites left”.

She said villages could be vulnerable to unplanned development and the south of the borough, yet again, could be put at risk.

Gawsworth councillor Lesley Smetham (Con), who also voted against, said there had been insufficient member engagement in the plan and it was not strong enough on environmental mitigation.

Prestbury councillor Paul Findlow (Con) said his main concern was about safeguarded land.

He referred to sites in Prestbury, Alderley, Bollington, Chelford and Disley which he said would “more than likely” have land removed from the Greenbelt from 2030 onwards.

“Alright, it was kept in the Greenbelt until 2030,” said Cllr Findlow.

“2030 – the next local plan is only seven years or so away, so it’s not really safeguarding the Greenbelt.”

He too voted against adopting the plan.

Deputy council leader Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) urged councillors to support the plan.

He said: “The consequences of rejecting the SADPD at this stage really don’t bear thinking about.”

Macclesfield councillor Brian Puddicombe (Lab) said: “I agree that it is now a good news story that will stop speculative developers profiteering at the expense of the council and Cheshire East residents and I’m happy to vote for it, though I do understand why Middlewich councillors have concerns with it.”

Knutsford councillor Tony Dean (Con) reminded councillors the first part of the Local Plan Strategy is currently under review and he said that is a ‘massive issue’ because time has moved on, things had changed and could be looked at again.

He gave the example of the Longridge site, near Knutsford, which has recently been designated a Local Wildlife Site.

Cllr Mick Warren, moved the SADPD be adopted, saying it was central to achieving sustainable development in Cheshire East.

A named vote was called and the plan was adopted with 49 voting in favour, 12 against and four councillors abstaining.

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