Cheshire East suspends examination of local plan

Out-Law News | 14 Nov 2014 | 5:09 pm | 2 min. read

Cheshire East Council has suspended the examination of its emerging local plan core strategy for up to six months after the examining inspector expressed concerns about the economic and housing strategies put forward by the Council.

The Council submitted its local plan strategy (LPS) document for examination in May, proposing the provision of 27,000 new homes and 13,900 new jobs in the district by 2030. Examination was adjourned early last month after developers submitted a report raising "serious and substantial" concerns about the process followed by the Council in preparation of the plan.

Inspector Stephen Pratt wrote to the Council this week to provide his interim views (20-page / 252 KB PDF) on the legal compliance and soundness of the LPS. The inspector found that the Council's economic strategy was "unduly pessimistic" and that there was a "serious mismatch between the economic strategy and the housing strategy".

Pratt noted that the Council had proposed between 300 and 350 hectares of new employment land in the plan period, which he said had "the potential to provide over 22,000 new jobs solely in the [business, general industry and storage and distribution] sectors". This was "substantially greater than the number of jobs the LPS aims to provide (13,900) and take no account of other new jobs that may be provided in town centres and other sectors", the inspector said.

The inspector considered that the number of houses proposed in the LPS was insufficient to meet the likely number of jobs that could be expected, noting that "by failing to provide the necessary numbers of new houses for the new employees, the economic strategy will not be realised without significantly increased rates of commuting into the area, which is neither sustainable nor desirable".

Pratt also found that there were "shortcomings in the Council's objective assessment of housing needs", that "the proposed level of future housing seems inadequate", and that "further work is needed to justify the spatial distribution of development" in the LPS.

The inspector raised further concerns about proposed amendments to the district's green belt boundaries. Pratt noted flaws with the process and evidence for the release of land from the green belt in the north of the district and said that there "seems to be insufficient justification for establishing a new green belt in the south of the district".

In response to the inspector's letter, the Council has decided to suspend examination of the LPS in order to undertake additional work to address the shortcomings Pratt identified.

"It is regrettable that there will now be a delay in getting this finalised," said Council leader David Brown in a statement. "However, we must justify our decisions with work on our objectively-assessed need and economic evidence."

"Our aim is to deliver the best housing, jobs and infrastructure for the people of Cheshire East and our future generations," said Brown. "Getting the local plan right is an absolute priority and we undertake to do this over the next six months."