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Judicial review on the cards following Henbury housing scheme approval

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(Image: David Rutley joined local residents in March, calling on Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board to reject the two major planning applications in Henbury)


 

Henbury parish councillors greeted with dismay a Cheshire East planning committee decision which could see major housing developments to the north and south of Chelford Road.

Two planning applications (17/4034M and 17/4277M) have been submitted for the development of around 400 houses which would be built either side of the key route into Macclesfield.

Earlier this week MP David Rutley outlined his opposition to the developments.

 

Broken Cross air quality management area (AQMA)

Residents are concerned that the Broken Cross area – already recognised as an air quality management area (AQMA) – is unable to handle any additional pollution without having serious consequences for the health of those who live nearby.

Henbury Parish Council claims that figures relating to a pollution testing tube were not included in a council officers’ report to the committee.

Further, they allege that the tube with the worst reading (known as CE91) was removed amidst controversial circumstances.

The council said a local resident removed the tube (a claim Henbury Parish Council says the resident in question denies) and later altered its version of events to say that the resident had asked for its removal – something which has also been refuted by Henbury Parish Council.

Henbury parish councillors say a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has been submitted to Cheshire East Council to obtain details of the corresponding paper trail.

They assert that, had tube CE91 still been in place, it would have shown that a significant number of properties in the AQMA are still facing illegal levels of pollution.

(We’ve contacted Cheshire East Council for comment on this point)

 

Education

The council’s provision for education is totally flawed, according to the parish councillors objecting to the proposals.

They challenged the head of education at Cheshire East Council in March, and say they felt that Cheshire East had no plan regarding where families moving into the new properties would send their children to school.

Cheshire East Council is obliged to provide school places (although not necessarily in the local area) and a Henbury Parish Council spokesperson told us they seemed “not to actually care one jot” about where the children would be educated.

Henbury Parish Council says it was blocked from requesting information regarding these sites through the FOI system, and told not to contact MP David Rutley.

(We’ve contacted Cheshire East Council and Mr Rutley for comment on this point)

 

Section 106 funds

Henbury councillors allege that none of the Section 106 funding required from builders as a result of the developments will be of benefit to local schools in Macclesfield.

They point out that there are a handful of primary school places, but all of Macclesfield’s secondary schools are full and oversubscribed, year on year.

They say with all the current house building, any spare capacity has been swallowed up.

Henbury Parish Council said: “It could be seen by some, that the information the education department supplied, and the information in the officer’s report, was misleading the committee.”

They say that, despite comments and objections from Henbury Parish Council and others, the officer has chosen to ignore this.

(We’ve contacted Cheshire East Council for comment on this point)

 

Traffic

Henbury Parish Council stated that the traffic section and presentation (by Cheshire East Council officers) used skewed figures to convince the committee that adding 1,000 cars to the already saturated roads, could still lead to reduced congestion in the area.

Henbury Parish Council provided a comprehensive transport assessment, which it says shows Cheshire East Council’s figures were flawed.

Two out of the four committee members (the total committee comprises 10 members) who visited the site didn’t even go near Broken Cross roundabout, which proposals would see changed into a traffic light-controlled junction.

“We were disappointed to see Cllr Hough [Alsager ward member] seemingly voting for no other reason than to see development away from Crewe and Alsager,” said the Henbury Parish Council spokesperson.

Cllr Hough is alleged to have said during the meeting: “We have had this problem in Alsager, so why shouldn’t you have it now?”

The committee, in approving site 17/4034M, have sanctioned an easement which residents are concerned will cause damage to the local wildlife site. This is in conflict with the Cheshire East Local Plan policies.

In approving 17/4277M, the committee have sanctioned development access to Whirley Road, despite CEC highways officers stating in the final site selection document of the Local Plan that: “Whirley Road, is totally unsuitable to development access.”

Henbury parish councillors were frustrated that the committee ignored the advice of its officers.

(We’ve contacted Cheshire East Council for comment on this point)

 

Five year supply of houses

A number of speakers pointed out that Cheshire East already has a five year supply of housing, and so these sites were not necessary.

They say that the planning inspector placed an emphasis on more sites in the north of the borough, near transport connections, rather than to the east of the borough.

Cllr Fox (Wilmslow Dean Row ward member) indicated that with the reassessment of government figures the extra houses in Henbury would not be needed.

 

Local Plan

A Henbury Parish Council spokesperson said: “We feel large sections of the information and presentation was misleading, and [are] disappointed that they [Cheshire East Council planning committee members] challenged the independent professional assessments carried out by Henbury Parish Council and others.”

The spokesperson added: “This is an ill-conceived plan, which forms part of the flawed Local Plan, which fails to address the housing requirements for Macclesfield for affordable and starter homes in town centre areas utilising the substantial brown field site stock available to Cheshire East Council, located close to the transport connectivity, shops and leisure facilities which these people require.”

They continued: “The council has spent too much time frittering nearly £250k on the failed re-development of Macclesfield town centre, at a time when high street retail is on the decline.

“This time and money would have been better spent on making available unused shops and the rooms above for apartments, and living space, bringing the people back into the town, rather than continuing with the Local Plan destruction of green fields, to satisfy the Local Plan, which has been titled by some as a developer charter.”

 

Judicial review

Henbury Parish Council says it will now ask the Cheshire East monitoring officer to read its complaint and, following a donation of ‘unlimited’ funds from an unnamed developer, they believe they are now in a position to consider starting proceedings for a judicial review around the points regarding pollution and education.

Henbury Parish Council will also contact the Department for Education as well as local school governors to provide a more detailed indication of where local children could be educated.

 

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