The Strategic Allocations and Development Policies Document (or SADPD) came under deep scrutiny at the Strategic Planning Board last Friday (2nd October).
This is the second part of the Local Plan (Phase 1 was adopted in July 2017), which relates specifically to policies related to “Smaller Settlements and Rural”.
Conservative Members, with cross party support, challenged the rationale behind the redesigned SADPD before the Board would agree to another 6 weeks Consultation period. The questions they asked of the Independent/Labour Coalition’s proposals were searching and purposeful.
The Strategic Planning Board, chaired by Cllr Stewart Gardiner (Knutsford), were seeking assurance regarding the soundness of the future housing land supply and that the deliberate removal of housing numbers from this plan in the north of the borough (specifically those in the Green Belt), would not actually undermine the 2017 Local Plan and inadvertently, put areas of green belt, green gap and green fields at greater risk.
In addition, the Board Members asked for reassurance that the hard work of our communities and Town and Parish Councils in developing their Neighbourhood Plans and planning policies, would be awarded the respect they deserve. The Board sought assurance that there should be “no conflict” between the proposed SADPD and our adopted Neighbourhood plans.
Cllr David Brown (Congleton East), who attended as a visiting speaker, repeatedly asked the question,
“Where will the houses be built if numbers are reduced in the north of the Borough?” The response was vague stating that the numbers would be made up from ‘wind-fall sites’. The logical assumption is that they will have to be absorbed on new sites, south of the green belt that protects so much of Borough in the North,
Reviewing the sites, Congleton, Alsager, Holmes Chapel, Sandbach, Shavington, Nantwich and Crewe are already accommodating the vast majority of the 36,000 new homes as outlined in the Local Plan 2017. The Inspector at that time, highlighted that more houses had to be allocated to meet the housing needs of smaller settlements in the North of the Borough.
Cllr Corcoran appears willing to take on 200 additional houses in the South as a solution to any shortfall in our housing numbers to appease his Independent Cabinet Colleagues - one wonders if he will be willing to accommodate them in his own Sandbach Ward?
So are Green Belt sites really being removed from the SADPD?
Of course the Labour/Independent administration tried to pre-empt this debate on 16th September hailing the SADPD in a premature press release titled; “Council proposes to remove green belt site allocations”.
Members of the Board ascertained from officers that in fact these green belt sites are not being removed from the SADPD but are being re-classified as ‘Safeguarded Land in the Green Belt” - meaning that the sites will be developed in the next Local Plan Period.
What happens next?
The Labour/Independent administration will approve the proposal to start the Consultation at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Cheshire East Residents and other interested parties will have six weeks to consider the SADPD and submit their comments.
The Draft Strategic Allocations and Development Policies Document (SADPD) Can be found via the following link:
CEC Press Release 16.09.2020