Following on from the community meeting held on Sunday 24th November 2013, we wish to provide you with the highlights of the meeting and key points made.
The attendance was a little poor in comparison to previous meetings with approx 100 able to make it. We hope this was due to prior commitments, as apathy was previously predicted by Haddon’s representative, John Church. This is without doubt something they are hoping for / relying upon in order to push through their development plan. The battle is far from over and complacency is simply not an option if we wish to protect the site from further development, and have any hope of returning the land to use as a golf course. Let’s not play into Haddon’s hands by letting our guard down now.
For those that did attend, we’d be hugely grateful if you could let us know how you felt the meeting went, i.e. structure, information available, thoughts on what Janet Clowes and Michael Jones discussed and how it makes you feel in terms of reassurance/apathy etc. This feedback to us would be invaluable.
1. Andy Bailey opened the meeting, explained agenda, adoption of constitution introduced committee and mentioned:
2. Cheshire East Council (CEC) up against 23 of the UK’s top planning solicitors acting on behalf of developers.
3. Ward councillor Janet Clowes championing extension of green belt to include our area.
4. Trevor Sandry outlined chronology of events to date and requested all residents in the area to support local plan which is open to consultation until 16 Dec as it excludes Gorstyhill. He also asked residents to attend parish council meeting on 9 Dec to show support.
5. Paul Burt said that a true community had been forged as a result of the actions taken by Peter Hunt and Haddon Property Developments. He outlined fundraising social events which have been held to date and their success and said that more would be held from springtime onwards. He also asked for volunteers to help with organising events.
6. Andy Bailey said that following the incursion onto the site by Travellers during the summer residents wished to improve security. Various options had been looked into including manned security cf. Wychwood Park. Due to the various ways in which homes are occupied on the Village it wasn’t possible to get agreement to go down this route so Neighbourhood Watch scheme is best option. This could reduce home insurance premiums, will involve working with local police and is supported by parish council. Volunteers to assist requested.
7. Jenny Moran described the Wildlife Watch events which have taken place such as ‘bat listening’ and the Phase 1 habitat survey which is under way. She stated that not all the environmental results are being made public at the moment as some information needs to be withheld as it may be needed to support the environmental case against building homes. She did mention, however, that there are a number of ‘veteran’ oak trees 200-300 years old on the site. Further activities will be planned from spring 2014.
8. Janet Clowes described CEC disappointment at losing two appeals related to Sandbach. She explained that the Council had been using the established Liverpool Plan formula to calculate the number of houses required plus 5% buffer, but said that the goalposts had been moved. They now have to have a 20% buffer and the Inspector has brought in a new formula called the Sedgefield Plan.
This requires CEC to make up all the houses which were un-built from the previous Local Plan (not built because they were legally not allowed to) in the first 5 years of the new Local Plan, instead of building them during its overall life (30 years). This means they have to have sites on which 9,000 houses are ‘available’ to build in next five years. (Cllr Michael Jones amended this to 10,800 as a new tranche has to be added from March 31st, 2014).
9. Section 106 cannot be overturned unless CEC itself does so, and it will not. Haddon will argue that precedent has been set because it has already been amended once on our site; CEC will argue strongly against and say their plan is robust.
10. CEC and residents can challenge anything which alters the concept of the design of Village and Park which, clearly, Haddon’s proposals would do.
11. Green Belt and Green Gap – the Inspector has said that Green Gap basically isn’t worth paper it was written on so CEC want to extend formal Green Belt to include us. Will be talking to Staff council about it as well. They do not want to see Crewe and Nantwich merging into each other and want to keep communities well separated by green land.
12. Cllr Michael Jones reiterated that the 106 can only be overturned by the Council and that they will not do this. They will fight any appeals and take to High Court if necessary. He continued “the Council will support the S106 and will fight it to the High Court”, he stressed that they will “support the limit to 725 houses, absolutely 100%”.
13. A resident asked what the situation would be if Haddon revised the plan to include 200 houses and a 9 hole golf course, he replied that the council would only modify the plan (not remove it) should the residents want it and request it.
14. MJ was questioned – what if Haddon could show they could build 900 houses in 5 years , he responded that that would not happen, MJ knows the build rate of every development in Cheshire and knows that 900 houses would not be possible within 5 years.
15. He stated that 900 homes on Gorstyhill does not help their Local Plan due to lack of infrastructure – distance to hospital, fire station, full schools, etc. CEC looking to extend housing on existing sites (e.g. add 10 homes to existing streets where possible), or to use brownfield sites such as council-owned disused car parks. He went on to add that logic says to build in sustainable areas and Gorstyhill does not fall into that category. Cheshire East have given permission to 1100 houses within the last 3 weeks, they are not going to support 900 houses here.
16. In March 10,800 houses will be needed within the plan – 3,000 needed in the 5 year supply, they have 8500/700 now so well on the way to 9000 by 1st January 2014. By March there will be an extra 1,000 from brownfield sites in Macclesfield, Crewe and Congleton developing council owned land ie unused car parks etc. They are confident of meeting the needs of the shortfall.
17. He was asked what their position would be if a developer bought Wychwood Park and put forward plans – answer was that the Section 106 still applies so they would not support such proposals. He strongly believes that such proposals are “unethical and immoral” speculative money-making ventures because the sums involved are so huge.
18. He was asked if the problems leading to the Sandbach appeals process had been fully addressed and replied that many applications were being brought forward and these would fill the gap discussed within the appeal process.
19. He suggested that the community could buy and run the golf course itself should Haddon be willing to sell it. The land is ‘farm land’ not housing land so value is not as high as for housing land (can be up to £1m per acre).
20. CEC has met MPs and Housing Minister to put its case for the Local Plan and will continue to exert pressure on them. MPs (inc Prime Minister) aware of situation in Cheshire generally. MJ is in favour of only having plan-led, strategically sensible development in areas which make sense, not housing for housing’s sake.
21. Local Plan calendar is roughly, consultation to 16 Dec this year then it goes to the Inspector. He should report back in Feb 2014 then it goes to another consultation period probably in March after which decisions will be made with approvals being notified around June.
Unfortunately the Weston & Basford Parish Council were unable to attend our meeting, but have provided the following statement clarifying their position on the current Consultation, and the steps they are currently taking. The Parish Council will shortly be announcing a meeting for the 9th December, when they will explain their position further; please make every effort to attend and support them in their wider fight against proposed developments in the area:
“Weston & Basford Parish Council is fully supportive of the aims of the Wychwood Community Group to resist any further development on the Wychwood Village site, and to restore it to its intended use. The Parish Council is keen to foster a close and robust working relationship with the Community Group. The Parish Council has by its very nature to consider a broader canvas than just Wychwood Village. Considering the Local Plan as a whole and its impact upon the parish, there are still significant outstanding issues which could have a dramatic effect on the whole of our community, not least the scale and location of some of the proposed residential allocations along with their impact on our already overloaded infrastructure. The aim of the Parish Council is to try to secure a three part package which would endeavour to retain the character and integrity of each of our communities along with our way of life, the reason we came to live here in the first place.
(1) A reduction in the size and impact of Village A (surrounding Crewe Hall) – push it further away from Weston Village and ensure that it is physically separated from Basford East, much as we would like to stop it altogether.
(2) Full support for the Green Belt extension, a powerful planning tool in helping to prevent further development.
(3) An undertaking from Cheshire East that there will be no further residential allocations within the Parish. Given the 1000 dwellings proposed for Basford East (the existing Master Plan seems to have support in principle), added to potential development on Village A, we consider that our Parish will have taken one of the biggest hits in the whole of Cheshire East – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. This comes into stark relief when looked at in relation to the proposals in the north of the borough.
The Parish Council will be calling an open meeting to discuss the current consultation on the Local Plan on 9th December – details to follow”.