Inspector backs latest changes to Cheshire East local plan

A Cheshire council has welcomed the response by a planning inspector to proposed changes to its long-awaited draft local plan.

Cheshire East: council has welcomed contents of inspector's letter
Cheshire East: council has welcomed contents of inspector's letter

Inspector Stephen Pratt has published a letter which sets out his views on the further modifications to Cheshire East Council’s emerging local plan.

The document, which was published for consultation in March, proposes 36,000 homes up to 2030, increasing the previous housing target from 27,000. It underwent six weeks of public examination hearings in September and October.

In 2014, Pratt suspended the examination of a previous version of the plan after voicing concerns over "fundamental shortcomings" relating to its housing and job targets.

In his letter this week, Pratt said the council "seems to have undertaken a comprehensive assessment of housing land supply, and established a realistic and deliverable means of meeting the objectively assessed housing need and addressing previous shortfalls in provision, including assessing the deliverability and viability of the proposed site allocations".

The plan’s proposal to create a "strategic green gap" around Crewe "seems soundly based", while the development strategy for district’s main towns and villages "seems to be appropriate, justified, effective, deliverable and soundly based", the letter said.

There is no need, the letter adds, "to consider in detail any 'omission' sites at this stage in the examination, and issues relating to the other strategic policies in the plan seem to be capable of resolution by modifications".

According to the council, Pratt’s letter also "confirms his previous endorsement of the core policies of the plan", which was expressed in December last year.

The letter states: "At this stage, I consider that no new evidence or information has been presented to the examination which is sufficient to outweigh or alter my initial conclusions on the duty to co-operate, the overall development strategy, including the revised amount of housing and employment land proposed and the objective assessment of housing need, the settlement hierarchy, the policies for the green belt and safeguarded land, and the revised spatial distribution of development."

However, Pratt said his conclusions on the overall soundness of the plan would be set out in a final report after a public consultation on the modifications.

According to the council, the inspector recommended modifications to its approach to windfall housing and the boundary of a site of safeguarded land in Macclesfield.

Ainsley Arnold, the council’s cabinet member for planning, said: "We heartily welcome the inspector’s letter, which now enables us to progress to the final stages of the local plan.

"He has supported the development strategy for each of our settlements and has supported in principle all of the 61 strategic sites within the revised local plan. He has also supported our approach to delivering the critical five-year supply of housing."

Arnold said the council would consult on the modifications in early 2017 and aimed to adopt the local plan "later in 2017".

The inspector’s letter can be viewed here.

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