Cheshire East seeks legal challenge to Willaston green gap homes decision

Out-Law News | 19 Sep 2014 | 4:52 pm | 1 min. read

Cheshire East Council announced this week that it will seek a legal challenge of a planning inspector's decision to uphold an appeal permitting the construction of 146 homes on open countryside near Crewe.

Planning inspector Alan Boyland allowed the appeal last month (27-page / 227 KB PDF), deciding that the proposed development, on green gap land in the village of Willaston, represented sustainable development and would "make an important contribution to housing requirements in an area where there is not a demonstrable five-year housing supply".

The inspector considered saved policies from the Borough of Crewe and Nantwich Replacement Local Plan, that sought to protect the open countryside, to be out-of-date in light of the lack of a five-year supply of housing land. "Limited weight" was also given to policies in the emerging Cheshire East Local Plan (CELP), which Boyland said might change before the CELP was adopted. The inspector noted that "there have been many objections to the submission version of [the CELP], including a number specific to the locality of the appeal site".

Boyland gave little significance to the loss of high quality agricultural land under the proposed scheme, noting that "it seems likely that development of some such land will be required in the area around Crewe in any event". While the proposals would lead to the erosion of the green gap between the village of Willaston and neighbouring Rope, the inspector concluded that there would be "no significant harm to the wider functions of the gap in maintaining the definition and separation of these two settlements".

In a statement this week, the Council confirmed that it intends to challenge Boyland's decision in the High Court: "Cheshire East Council argues that the planning inspector failed to understand, interpret or apply the correct approach in four areas of planning policy and housing need in relation  to this particular site."

The appeal decision followed a refusal by the secretary of state for communities and local government of the Council's request to recover several planning decisions for determination. The leader of the Council had since written an open letter to housing minister Brandon Lewis expressing concern at the "inconsistent" way in which planning inspectors had interpreted the borough's housing supply in a series of recent appeal cases.