Inspector satisfied by Cheshire East housing revision

Cheshire East Council's revised housing need represents a 'more objective and comprehensive' assessment of future requirements, a planning inspector has found.

Cheshire East: Image of Macclesfield Canal by Simon Harrod, Flickr
Cheshire East: Image of Macclesfield Canal by Simon Harrod, Flickr

The examination of the authority’s local plan was suspended last year after an inspector raised concerns about "fundamental shortcomings" with its housing targets and job goals.

The council has since undertaken a series of additional work, including reassessing the economic strategy, housing need and employment land requirements and updating the green belt assessment. The examination resumed in August.

In his latest interim findings, inspector Stephen Pratt said the council’s work on assessing housing demand "seems to represent a more objective and comprehensive assessment of the future need for market and affordable housing".

The objective assessment of housing need was established at 36,000 new dwellings, an increase on the 27,000 new dwellings proposed in the submitted local plan strategy, the inspector said.

He added: "The overall housing requirement figure of 36,000 additional dwellings would seem to provide a balanced level of housing provision, which is aligned with the economic strategy and would fully meet the identified objective assessment of housing needs."

He said work on the alignment of the economic, employment and housing strategy "seems to better reflect the economic ambition and potential of Cheshire East, with more realistic assumptions about economic and jobs growth".

However, the inspector said that while the council undoubtedly wished him to fully endorse the key elements and conclusions of the additional evidence, it was "not possible for several reasons".

He said one reason for this was because the scope, nature and content of the additional evidence has "significant and wide-ranging implications for the submitted local plan strategy".

He added: "Furthermore, although [Cheshire East Council] has informed and engaged with stakeholders and other interested parties about the additional evidence during the suspension period, this evidence has not been subject to wider-ranging formal public consultation.

"Many divergent views were expressed during the engagement process and at the resumed hearings, but there is little common ground, and there may be other views expressed by those outside the current examination process."

Rachel Bailey, cabinet member in charge of the local plan said: "With his endorsement in principle, we can now press full ahead in progressing the local plan to its later stages. The next step will be to present a comprehensive set of proposed changes to a full meeting of the council before carrying out wide-ranging public consultation over a six-week period.

"We appreciate that the inspector cannot reach any final views at this stage – and that the revised evidence naturally requires significant change to the submitted strategy. However we now have a clear sense of how to move forward."

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