Crewe Hall, hosting Help to Buy event

Cheshire East paid nearly £50,000 to hire rooms at Crewe Hall Hotel for a two-week public inquiry for the Middlewich Bypass – including £1,980 for lunch for the planning inspector and legal experts, writes Belinda Ryan.

The figures were revealed at a meeting of the audit and governance committee, leaving some councillors questioning why one of the council’s own buildings were not used.

Director of Highways Tom Moody told the meeting there had been an error and breach of procurement rules [a procurement engagement form hadn’t been completed].

Assuring councillors it wouldn’t happen again, he said: “I would also like to stress there were specific circumstances in regard to the booking of Crewe Hall.”

According to a document released to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) by the council, the planning inspectorate’s requirements included “a large public room must be available with comms facilities for a remote hearing, plus no less than nine separate private rooms that do not have public access and can be locked”.

The invoice shows Cheshire East booked the drawing room at Crewe Hall at a cost of £1,300 a day for 10 days and six separate rooms, each costing £450 a day, for 10 days.

Documents presented to the committee, some of which have now been seen by the LDRS, state no other venue was available for the two weeks between November 7 and November 18 2022.

Chris Hindle, head of strategic infrastructure, told councillors: “The [Middlewich Bypass] scheme is a £90m big budget scheme obviously, and a process and scheme of this nature and size requires full public scrutiny and a public inquiry was required.

“The details of what was required in terms of the place and the facilities required for the public inquiry was sent by the planning inspectorate.”

He insisted there was “extensive research” to try and find an alternative venue.

The invoice shows the total £49,696 was for two weeks, as the inquiry didn’t run into an anticipated third week.

Had it done, the papers reveal, the council would have gone to Macclesfield Town Hall for that final week.

But some members wanted to know why Cheshire East couldn’t use its own buildings for free for the whole inquiry.

Committee chair Margaret Simon (Wistaston, Con) said: “We do own Macclesfield Town Hall, so can we commandeer these buildings?

“I know they’ll be booked out for other things but are we not able to?”

Macclesfield councillor Alift Harewood (Lab) said: “I can’t see why Macclesfield Town Hall, with vacant rooms unused for ages, could not have been just taken at no cost at all.”

Mr Hindle told her: “The information that came back was that they were being used for some days.”

Crewe councillor Marilyn Houston (Lab) said: “Looking at the invoice, what concerns me is that lunch was provided, a quantity of 120 lunches at £16.50 per lunch.”

Mr Hindle said it was a requirement from the planning inspectorate, adding it was provided for the participants such as inspector and legal experts, but not the public.

The LDRS can also reveal the bill for tea and coffee over the two weeks came to £816.

Co-opted committee member Ron Jones said an alternative venue would probably have been nearly as expensive but Cllr Simon said not if it had been held in a council-owned building.

Mr Hindle told the committee the right decision had been taken to hold the inquiry at Crewe Hall because of the special requirements and circumstances.


  1. Chris Moorhouse says:

    The Planning Inspectorates requirements do seem to be OTT. CEC would have had plenty notification to organise the event using it own resources. Whilst this would still have had a cost, it would have been far less than £50k even if they paid some compensation to pre-booked users to move to other venues. Procurement rules had been breached says the Director of Highways. Two bad news items in the same week, will there be another by Friday? Watch this space.

  2. Total joke as usual, no wonder we are in such a mess,total bunch of clowns 🤡 and they have the cheek to put up the council tax due to rising costs.

  3. Reaseheath College, perfect venue, excellent facilities and Cheshire East could have marketed , by default, one of the areas “Crown Jewels” but instead…… time for a change of leadership

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