Jenrick's Cheshire housing appeal approval 'flies in the face of government commitment to a plan-led system'

Cheshire East Council has sent a “stinging” open letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick strongly criticising his decision to allow a planning appeal for a 189-home development on an unallocated site.

Secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick - image: Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0)
Secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick - image: Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0)

In a recovered appeal decision last month, Jenrick approved plans for up to 189 homes at the 12-hectare site near Nantwich last month, even though the council could demonstrate a five-year housing land supply and the site was not allocated in its adopted local plan.

The decision letter said the secretary of state had "taken into account that nationally it is a government policy imperative to boost the supply of housing, and he considers that this benefit should be afforded significant weight".

The letter also said the scheme's provision of 30 per cent affordable homes "is a tangible benefit and merits significant weight".

Expressing "dismay" at this, the joint open letter from council leader Sam Corcoran and cabinet member for planning Toni Fox said: "This council has a very robust housing land supply and is on target to deliver that housing in a planned and sustainable manner by also bringing forward the delivery of supporting infrastructure in accordance with our adopted Local Plan Strategy."

Claiming Jenrick's decision to prioritise housing numbers "undermines the principles of effective plan making", it continues: "Many thousands of Cheshire East residents have engaged in the local plan process over many years and have also been involved in the development of more than 30 neighbourhood plans across the borough."

The decision "will leave many, particularly around Nantwich, to question why they bothered". It also "flies in the face of the government's stated commitment to a plan-led system" and "will likely lead to a further scramble for developers to seek permission for other unplanned sites", the letter goes on to say.

It adds: "The public's confidence that up-to-date plans provide certainty as to what development they will see take place in their local area has taken a significant blow."

An MHCLG spokesperson told Planning: "As the decision letter explains, the wide range of issues raised in this matter have been taken into account based on the detailed findings of the planning inspector," adding that a right to challenge a decision by the secretary of state on an appeal or called-in application is "long-standing".

According to Jenrick's letter, the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy was adopted in 2017.

The report by the inspector considering the appeal said: "At the time that these proposals were submitted almost 5.5 years ago, there was no Local Plan Strategy in place, and CEC at the time undoubtedly couldn't demonstrate a [five year housing land supply].

"As matters stand now, whilst the [local plan] is now in place, the next part of the local plan, which considers the merits of non-strategic allocations and which will review settlement boundaries, is still a long way from adoption."

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