David Brown steps aside as cost of flawed Local Plan exceeds £3.7m

CongEast David Brown

Following publication of the Planning Inspector's Interim Views, which outlined "serious shortcomings" and "significant flaws" that need to be addressed before the Local Plan examination can continue, Councillor David Brown has decided to step down from overseeing the plan.

Cheshire East is now creating a Task Force to drive and coordinate the work required to address the Inspector's concerns and strengthen the Local Plan.

Council Leader Michael Jones said: "Councillor Peter Raynes will now lead this Task Force to expedite the process and reduce to as short as possible any delay to the Local Plan being examined and adopted.

"Peter will be ably assisted by former Cabinet member Councillor Jamie Macrae, who has a fantastic background within planning and economic development. We will also continue to listen to residents and involve external partners.

"It is important for everybody to be reassured that we have listened and will continue to listen to people to make sure we get the Local Plan right as soon as possible."

Cheshire East received a report last week from the Planning Inspector providing his interim views on the soundness and legal compliance of the Council's Local Plan.

Whilst the Inspector is of the opinion that the Council has met the minimum legal requirements of the Duty to Co-operate, he criticised the economic strategy for being "unduly pessimistic".

He also expressed concern that the proposed level of housing is inadequate to meet future need and the process and evidence relating to the proposed Green Belt amendments is flawed.

Meanwhile UKIP Cheshire East Councillors Brian Silvester and Andy Barratt have revealed that Cheshire East Council has spent £3,765,635 on the Local Plan since 2010.

Brian Silvester said "The local plan was supported by Conservative and Labour Councillors when it was adopted by the Council. It has taken over 5 years to have a plan but now it has been comprehensively rubbished by the Plannning Inspector. It is not a rewrite that is required, it will virtually mean starting again.

"This is incompetence on a massive scale and all those Councillors who supported the Local Plan should be thrown out next May to allow for a fresh start. Local residents will be appalled that CEC have spent 5 years and £3.7m of Council Taxpayers money on a Local Plan that is totally inadequate and left our precious green open spaces to the mercy of the developers."

The Council is minded to pause the examination to allow further work to be undertaken to address the Inspector's concerns, which is likely to be completed within six months.

Councillor Peter Raynes, who is Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: "As a long-term resident of Cheshire East, I have a passion to maintain the precious landscape of our beautiful Borough. But, at the same time, this Council recognises the need to produce a Local Plan that meets the needs of the future.

"I cannot think of a more important task to be involved in."

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Cabinet member in charge of strategic outcomes, said: "In order to ensure the best chance for the Cheshire East Local Plan to succeed, I have decided to take a backward step from overseeing the Local Plan to allow a fresh pair of eyes and perspective to be brought to bear.

"I believe this is the best solution for the way forward as I have spent many hours and met many residents during the production of the plan.

"The Local Plan has been a massive undertaking: the Council has received more than 40,000 responses from residents and organisations, which were collated, assessed and fed into the submission version of the Local Plan Strategy. The strategy has also undergone nine rounds of public consultation since 2010.

"Since the Local Plan was approved by the Council, on February 28, 2014, the Government has come out with a new assessment methodology – the National Planning Policy Guidance – on March 6 this year, and therefore new housing calculations and employment figures will have to be calculated.

"Our economic growth and projected jobs creation has been outstanding – even beyond our expectations, with the unemployment rate down to 1.2 per cent in the Borough and just 0.9 per cent in Congleton for example – so we now have to review our housing numbers.

"Now it is time for others to assess the Planning Inspector's comments in total – to make sure we can address all the issues that have been raised."

David Brown, Local Plan


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Pete Taylor
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 4:57 pm
Is there nothing which Michael Jones will take responsibility for? Looking back to his election acceptance speech it is almost laughable, particularly the bit about "getting things right first time".

Nick Jones
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 5:12 pm
Reminiscent of Lyme Green ? albeit different circumstances.... same result.
David Lewis
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 6:05 pm
Cllr Brown mentions 40,000 responses to the nine rounds of consultation, what he fails to mention is that the Council choose to ignore just about all of them. As mentioned in the Inspector's report, features of the Plan were pre-determined by the Council and not changed in response to overwhelming objections received in the consultations.

The Plan was not submitted for inspection until well after 6th March when the National Policy Guidelines were published and could still have been changed before submission. The main clarification contained in these was that lack of housing supply would not normally count as exceptional circumstances to justify building in the greenbelt. The guidelines did not however materially change the basis for calculating housing and employment figures and it is therefore wrong to lay the blame for the Plan's failure on the 6th March guidelines.

Cllr Brown is the unfortunate fall guy. It has been evident for a long time that blame would be laid on him if the Plan failed, where in truth it is more senior figures who should resign or be sacked. People will be asking next May, are the present Council members fit for purpose?
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 6:17 pm
Cllr Brown ignored 450 valid objections to 213 housing on Adlington Rd, planning ref 14/0007M and voted in favour. Half of the planning review board voted against it. Wilmslow Town Council didn't want it and neither did the Wilmslow Trust. Cllr Michael Jones having assured residents that the land would never be built on failed us. George Osborne did nothing. He too failed us.
Cllr Brown has wrecked any chance of Cheshire East having a plan before the May 2015 elections and wrecked balanced, sustainable, safe and welcome development in Wilmslow.
He has also wrecked the chances of conservative councillors being re elected.
The culprits will slowly but surely disappear. I wonder when the Chief Planning Officer follows? What a mess voters!
Chris Wigley
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 7:19 pm
I wonder if Michael Jones' uses the catch phrase " Well , here's another nice mess you've gotten me into !" - £3.7 million on a failed local plan and over £1 million wasted on Lyme Green, a pattern has emerged from anything that Jones' handles.
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 8:37 pm
Cllr Brown's statements are like a "production" straight out of the beloved Pravda, which took its editorial direction straight from the nomenclature of the hallowed Kremlin and Mokva Central.
Now in situ at Westfield, Sandbach!
What planet are Cllr Brown and Cllr Jones on? Or more to the point, do they honestly believe the good folk of Cheshire East have just touched down in their domain from outer space?
As par for the CE course, everyone is to blame for the fiasco that is the Local Plan. Another costly & useless exercise, this one to be added to the sorry tale of other mismanagement fiascos, like Lyme Green to name just one!
Take the NPPF new assessment methodology, published by the DCLG on the 6th March. On the 3rd April, at a meeting at Westfield, with Cllr Brown, I asked if in view of the new NPPF methodology, he would sanction a rethink of the LP to take account of the DCLG's new policy. This was four (4) weeks after the 6th March announcement. I clearly remember Cllr Brown, placing his hands firmly on the LP document on the desk before him, saying "No", his/their plan will stand and go forward as it is with no alterations whatsoever.
Residents of Wilmslow have repeatedly told both Cllrs Jones & Brown, for well over 18 months, that their plan as derived was going to end in only one way - disaster. Disaster for all the residents of the Borough and at enormous cost to its tax payers.
In addition, they whipped their Conservative colleagues through the debate on approving this plan at a Special Council Meeting on the 28th February. The Conservative councillors responded by voting like unthinking zombies to NOT take the Green Belt sites out of the LP, in other words they voted for the destruction of the Green Belt.
Before this stage, 9 rounds of so called "public consultations" ensued; all public opposition to CEs LP sites, with overwhelming percentages of participants votes, were more or less ignored.
A very recent result of this arrogance and total disregard for Wilmslow's voters participation and deeply expressed opposition to loss of the protective Green Belt, was RoWs Wilmslow TC by-election win last week against a prominent CE councillor. This vote will have far reaching repercussions, well beyond Wilmslow TC.
Cllrs Jones, Brown, other Conservative councillors and indeed our M.P. should take note; the writing is writ large on the election booth wall!
What CE so plainly needs, at borough, town & parish levels, are a host of independent councillors who will listen and act according to their voters wishes, not act in carrying through the desires of uncaring, non-listening political parties, hell bent on their own "legacies".
Pravda/Westfield editor's correction, "the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes"
Graham Jackson
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 9:11 am
And the wasted money just continues, we are probably at the thick end of £5m of rate payers money spent on two failed projects, Lyme Green & the Local Plan. These are just the issues in the public domain, it beggars belief to think what money is just blown away or written off on what we don't know.

Surely the competence of officials at CEC to manage major projects has to be questioned. Where are the fiscal, business and project management skills? If any member of the public, working in any normal PLC, had failed so disastrously, they would have been fired on the spot and shareholders demanding answers from the board.

My grave concern though is that CEC have been creating private companies, yes, local authority owned trading companies, sheltered under the Tekal ruling.

CEC transfer council staff under TUPE regs. to these newly formed companies and start to operate as a private company supplying services back to the council. If these company fail, the mess created simply falls back onto the rate payer which could quite easily include financial liability. The staff employed, with no penalty, just revert back to being Council employees.

Councils including Chelsea, Barnet and Essex have all suffered from Council owned companies failing, both operationally and financially, to the cost of the local ratepayer. How can we trust CEC to manage companies when they can't even mange what they are supposed to do - I wait for baited breath for the first collapse of a financially strained CEC owned company.

If they can't manage what they are supposed to do - how can they manage a private company when most of them have little or zero experience in such an environment!

The performance of CEC in these matters, it's reputation in tatters, must surely have an impact on voting patterns throughout the County come election time.
Kathryn Blackburn
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 11:14 am
This is a Conservative led Council. Councillors Jones and Brown would not have whipped the other Conservative Councillors into approving this Plan against the wishes off their electorate, without the tacit approval of this government and that of George Osborne in particular. This arrogance will surely not go un-noticed in May. The 40,000 that vetoed this Plan are the 40,000 that make good use of their right to vote in elections. Forget that at your peril Mr Osborne et al.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 11:36 am
Lyme Green £2M, including the totally censored inquiry report.
BeWilderwood £5M.
Alderley Science Park £6M.
Local Plan £3.7M+
Nick Jones
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 3:56 pm
And I wonder if those responsible (ie; the ones not asleep on their watch ! ) can be made personally liable for their individual (and collective) significant financial failings with our hard earned and easily taxed money !

There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted..... but now it would appear now, they get a lot of publicity and we have to keep coughing up for their incompetence instead.
Graham Jackson
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 4:16 pm
Sorry Pete, I'm losing count the amounts are getting so big - did that include any monies to Cheshire East’s chief executive Erika Wenzel when she resigned, I'm assuming it didn't and what about Lisa Quinn, director of finance and business services, who left the authority by ‘mutual agreement’? There are that many resignations, person's stepping down and general jumping of the ship, its hard to keep up!
Pete Taylor
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 6:53 pm
@ Graham; no these figures have been widely reported and do not include the various pay-offs for the departing managers you mention, nor the huge salary paid to Kym Riley, who appears to have been responsible for the exit of around 1k Council employees, either by redundancy or TUPE to the private companies set up by CEC.
I can't fathom how "our" Council has moved from the position of a "provider of essential services to the Council Tax-Payers" to being some sort of out of control, risk-taking, venture-capital outfit.
Roger Bagguley
Thursday 20th November 2014 at 9:56 pm
Further additions: I have it on very good authority the financial cost of 55 failed appeals, 2010 - 2014 (to date), is around £400,000.00.
Manuel Golding
Friday 21st November 2014 at 2:30 pm
The old and very wise adage of "when you are in a hole, stop digging" doesn't seem to have either got through or troubles the powers of Cheshire East Council.
Oh boy, and is it not an enormous bottomless hole they keep on trying to fill with our money!
Perhaps we can persuade the majority party in the council to start burying some of its very own "top-dog" diggers, before they bury all us in it.
Pauline Keen
Friday 21st November 2014 at 2:53 pm
Delighted to see that David Brown has gone but why hasn't Michael Jones done the honourable thing and fallen on his sword too, and for that matter Adrian Fisher. The whole local plan was created to produce the answer that CEC wanted. All three were involved in this and backed by the Conservative councillors who followed meekly behind their leader, and they were encouraged by George Osborne. Hopefully, the disgruntled electorate will fire them all next May.
Graham Jackson
Friday 21st November 2014 at 4:59 pm
@Pete, couldn't agree more. Instead of simply supplying services required of them by statute. A service of value, quality at a fair price. They have morphed into seed capital suppliers, playing at ltd companies, shrouded in secrecy with agendas outside the requirements of the ordinary rate payers. They hold anyone looking for the truth with contempt and critise them for asking what they perceive to be vexatious questions. They hide behind so called commercial sensitively and dodge as best they can FOI requests.
Oliver Romain
Saturday 22nd November 2014 at 8:09 am
@Pauline he hasn't gone. No change to paid position it's spin he has just passed the problem on. The headline gives the impression he has done something honourable. The honourable thing would be to apologise and resign.
Saturday 22nd November 2014 at 9:10 am
Spot on Oliver - it is all spin. They knew that the plan had major defects, but were driven by greed to press on. Why else did they give planning permission on safeguarded land in advance of the Local Plan? - because they knew that such a scenario as this could emerge. All Residents of Wilmslow ever asked was for a fair, reasoned, transparent approach and our elected Councillors, with Councillor Brown leading the charge, dumped residents in the mire.
Pete Taylor
Saturday 22nd November 2014 at 3:43 pm
Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice:

John Clegg
Wednesday 26th November 2014 at 4:18 pm
Pete Taylor's figures above total over £16 million. I've really stopped reading about how our local council purports to be working for us - but are they supposed to be cutting services to save £17 million?
Nick Jones
Wednesday 26th November 2014 at 5:14 pm
A mere drop in the ocean !! Nobody ever said these councillors come cheap ! They are undoubtedly to fiscal responsibility the same that jack the ripper was to open heart surgery ! But its the sheer audacity to 'carry on ' 'fogging' issues that worries me........ Where and when does this end.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 27th November 2014 at 10:33 pm
David Brown speaks on the Cheshire East Council website:

From which I conclude that "the Government" moved the goal-posts; he does not take full responsibility- as there was a large team involved (even though he was the boss) and if you concentrate on what he says, very briefly, about 5 minutes in, Wilmslow and the surrounding areas will now be under even more loss of Green Belt pressure.