Opinion: Greenbelt around Wilmslow again under threat

Inspection of the Local Plan was suspended last December and Cheshire East was asked to address shortcomings in the supporting evidence for economic growth and projections of housing need.

Cheshire East has since held two workshops with 'stakeholders' (mostly developers) to try to ensure that the proposals they put forward should not meet with too many objections. The workshop on 19th May addressed the Housing and Economic Strategy and Housing Need assessment and that on 20th May the Greenbelt Assessment and the method for deriving the Spatial Strategy (the distribution of housing between the various towns in Cheshire East).

The economic growth now proposed is 0.7% per year (up from 0.4%) and the number of homes required in the borough is as a result increased by 7,000 to 36,000 homes.

The Greenbelt Assessment divided the greenbelt around Wilmslow into smaller plots than previously and assigned each to one of three categories as making a contribution, a significant contribution or a major contribution to the purpose of the greenbelt. A significant number of greenbelt parcels around Wilmslow are assigned as making only a contribution.

Our Cheshire East Councillors and Michael Jones in particular have been going public in the local newspapers to say that it is very likely that many of these or even the majority will be proposed for development. The designation of each area of greenbelt is shown on the map produced by Cheshire East, see CEC - Mapped Results of Arup Green Belt Assessments.

The key areas around Wilmslow that look vulnerable are: Upcast Lane; Royal London (both sides of the Alderley Road); two areas at Prestbury Road; four in the vicinity of Adlington Road and areas in the Bollin Valley and near Manchester Road. These views are being voiced somewhat prematurely before the final proposals to go before the Inspector are finalised and before the Inspector has had the opportunity to examine them: but clearly this is what our Councillors have in mind.

Before the 19th/20th May workshops the Inspector wrote to Cheshire East cautioning them that if modifications to the Plan resulted in a fundamentally different spatial strategy or involve significant alterations to the Plan withdrawal of the present Plan may be the most appropriate course of action. This advice was not made public until after the workshops had finished nor seen by participants at the workshop.

What then are we as Wilmslow citizens to make of this? Will the Inspector agree his concerns for the shortcomings of the flawed Plan he sent back in December last year have been addressed, the Plan Michael Jones spent a huge sum of money on and declared it was robust, or will he decide that enough is enough and fail it completely?

It does appear from the latest email from the Inspector that with so little time left to the July resubmission deadline there are still issues to be resolved and work to be done. Our Councillors are driving us towards a new Local Plan that proposes so many sites for immediate development (those in red on the map) and where further land is likely to be 'safeguarded' for development at a future date (those in amber on the map). Such a Plan leaves little hope for those of us who value the countryside and see it as being as vital to protect us from sprawling development. Perhaps the statement we should keep repeating to anyone who will listen is that put out by David Cameron recently – Growth targets being set by local authorities may well not ever be reached because of restraints such as the protection given to Green Belt land. As RoW has always said it is brownfield first and there is a lot of this in and around Wilmslow.

This Opinion piece is a guest post by David Lewis from Residents of Wilmslow.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of wilmslow.co.uk.

Local Plan, Opinions


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

Nick Jones
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 1:40 pm
I like many others, support and favour appropriate, meaningful and considered development, but not expansion at all costs which seems alluded to here once more.....None of the recent
[+ ongoing] developments have been for ‘affordable’ houses and realistically [or should that be ...‘for purely monetary / business reasons’ ] none will be either..... None of the proposed development indicates supporting secondary school / social infrastructure etc... So It is just about the money!.... Trying “...to ensure proposals don’t meet with too many objections..”... Suggests the haste of the Adlington Rd development is required again to steamroller through change......But remember Michael Jones comments on Adlington Road "No building on these fields". [ http://bit.ly/1g4JU32.] .....Remember the February CEC Meeting and who in particular put this Green belt at risk, The Party whip vote not to protect this green belt ...nodded through by Menlove, Whiteley, Keegan ,Barton and others..(Details on CEC website),.....Remember Lyme Green, how CEC broke its own planning rules (Some of the same persons involved)... Resident’s rights should not be ignored again ... [they probably will be]...BUT the green belt does need to be protected not decimated...... Development should be measured and appropriate and I hope it will be.......but history does have a strange habit of repeating itself....and we have all the ingredients and people involved for that to occur here.........It’s like the Sir Humphrey Appleby Four stage strategy; “In stage one we say nothing is going to happen ..., Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it,... In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we *can* do... Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it's too late now.
Jackie Pass
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 3:12 pm
The telling point in the report that was discussed was that the "independent reviewers" of the green belt had agreed with Cheshire East to build in that “parcels surrounding respective settlements all had an equal role in assisting urban regeneration”. This directly contradicts Green Belt Assessment criteria which is "to assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land". To include parcels of land surrounding settlements - that is - greenfields - they are treating that as "urban land" when it is clearly not.

The "independent asessors" also agreed with Cheshire East to build into their analysis development within neighbouring local authorities - BUT they specifically excluded the Woodford Development on the grounds that it is not in "urban" land.

Double standards or what?

The bottom line is that they want to give developers more of the land around Wilmslow, Macclesfield, Poynton and Knutsford. Have to say that Wilmslow has got the short straw. In Tytherington there is a large Redrow development and given a choice between those houses and what it planned to be built at adlington Rd I would chose the Tytherington site any day.

Also the Green Belt Assessment was a desk- based one. They seem totally unaware that the Bollin Valley has to have a flood plain.
Michelle Gray
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 3:47 pm
I don't really know where the official figures come from but having spoken to some people who are wanting to downsize, they are having problems selling their homes as, according to local estate agents, potential buyers of this calibre of house are purchasing the Addlington Road new homes in preference to established homes.

It would seem that the new building is creating a glut of houses for sale in Wilmslow/ not easing local housing shortage.

So, technically, we are losing our green belt land only to line the pockets of housing developers

Where is the justice in that?
Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 4:11 pm
Where do these new growth figures come from? You know, the ones that now justify 7,000 extra houses.

How come these new figures are right but the old ones are wrong?

What if the new ones are wrong and the old ones are right?

And why does CE think their "We were wrong before, but believe us now" is credible?

I mean, how exactly do they know how much our economy will grow by 2030? Have they foreseen the outcome of the EU referendum. Or if HS2 will actually get built? Because I think these will have a major effect on our growth?

No, it's hokum.

A made-up figure to justify the 7,000 extra houses that CE now wants to build regardless of local opinion.
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 6:07 pm
Thanks David for highlighting the double speak of Ministers, our MP, council leaders and our local CE Conservative councillors. In the latter case, they do not care to question the leadership's propaganda, they follow like sheep and regurgitate the false information from the leadership and from the so called "independent" assessors. How can they be "independent" when they are working for their employer, in this case it is Cheshire East paying their invoices.
CE has accepted the so called "independent" inspector's claim that not enough commercial and housing has been allowed for. Where does he get his supposed future growth figures from? No one has dared to question his assumptions to date. CE accepts them blindly.
It then requires it "independent" (paid for by CEC - he who pays the piper.....) assessors produce a Green Belt assessment to suit its and the so called "independent" inspectors needs. Where does ARUP (the so called "independent" assessor) get its growth figures from? Where ver they come from they are from somebody's subjective assessments. It is all guess work, nothing more, nothing less. And we are expected to accept all these subjective illusory assessments as fact, as inevitable. The "experts" think of a number(s) and go from there - how often have we seen and been subject to so called "independent experts" introspective views? Has the future always shown them to have been correct? Not always, most occasions well off the mark.
As Mark Goldsmith rightly asks, where have these so called growth figures come from? Show us, prove it. A business will have to do so if it is investing hard earned money.
Having said all this, we at RoW have shown that Wilmslow is well on course for 1000+ new homes to 2030 - these include brown field developments and windfalls. Michael Jones & his planners really need to asses the brownfields & windfalls RoW has submitted time after time, rather than ignoring our up to date development info. We are not against development and have shown CE what has been achieved from 2010 to date and where more could be built. Will they present these to the "independent" inspector or just sally forth with their own "independent" assessors pepper potting destruction of the town's Green Belt?
Make your views heard now, write to Cllr Michael Jones and your local CE councillors - let them know your feelings.
Jackie Pass
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 6:51 pm
Michelle, I think the estate agents are looking for excuses to make people ask less for their established properties. I'd be surprised if many houses have been sold at Adlington Rd, except to property investors, who will then sell on or plan to rent out eventually. Remember that "estate agents" operate in the same social circles as the large property developers so at the end of the day it is one cartel designed to give themselves what they want.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 7:11 pm
These Politicians use statistics like drunkards use lampposts: not for illumination, but for support..and as we all know 91.7 percent of all statistics are made-up on the spot..

Without seeing the raw data these statistics are not justification just pure tripe........

The missing word here is PROPORTIONATE

Perhaps those responsible would care to justify their position in a logical manner, using clear language, and comprehensible data, in an unequivocal manner......perhaps i am being unreasonable asking for clarity from these quarters....
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 9:08 pm
Growth being quoted for the whole of Cheshire East isn't easy to define.
It has changed from the beginning of the process. However, reading the economic strategy and notes, you find that the Cheshire-Warrington TEP is a major source of gross value added, as is the Atlantic Gateway, Airport City, Omega but not here. For us it is the Science Corridor. The latter re employment land is well catered for at Alderley Park and includes a possible 300 houses anyway. The docs state that there is unlikely to be a net increase in jobs on the site after AZ have completed their moves. But we must not forget Waters either for growth of course.
Cllr Jones says that Poynton, Wilmslow and Knutsford will have to accept more housing, since we are victims of our own success. Yet the CE drivers for 0.7% growth are not principally here or there. Some aren't even in CE and probably never will be. Some of our green fields are already owned by developers and they will do their utmost to make progress. However ....
One report makes it clear that as Manchester economy grows, Wilmslow will be used as out of town office accommodation. As Croyden or Watford are to London I suppose. That is not a sustainable CE strategy. Stretching out a begging bowl? Poor show. We should not allow our green fields to be wasted in this manner.
In my opinion housing expansion is for commuters into Manchester, Stockport, Trafford and to Airport City. The docs analyze the current situation. You will read where we are now and the economic drivers will not alter this.
Please read the documents and you will understand the serious nature of what is being put forward to the Inspector. With litlle export component included CE will not pull its weight in helping reduce our debts. CE have got this seriously wrong.
Ryan Dance
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 11:24 am
our cosy little affluent villages, towns & great cities need to move with the times & develop at pace. This nimbyism should stop.

Green belt policy is restrictive, unnecessary, bureaucratic and ancient.

It should be scrapped and replaced with modern free market planning policy to fit the needs of a swelling population & economically vibrant country.

As mentioned before - to ensure the local authority invests in local services - they should actively impose a CIL tax on all developments. This would combat the comments "local services cannot cope"
Nick Jones
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 12:53 pm
Wilmslow is a diverse place and the YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) campaign should be encouraged,.... I don’t think there are any CAVE ( Citizens Against Virtually Everything), BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone), NIMBY ( Not in my Back Yard), NIABY ( Not in Anyone’s Back Yard) or NOPE (Not on Planet Earth) submissions here... And there is most definitely no LULU contribution (Locally Unwanted Land Use) If there was I’m sure the Travellers or Developers would have seized that opportunity already.
Perhaps CEC should develop a plan with the YIMBY’s and COGS (Concrete Over Green Spaces).....A marriage made in Heaven..... Then leave PROPORTIONATE meaningful and appropriate development to the residents who care about protecting our green space.
Ryan Dance
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 1:06 pm
Fabulous contribution Nick.

Define "proportionate". What do you actually mean by this statement, when you have articulated this......try and get your vociferous anti-development buddies to agree!

Would love to hear your views on "proportionate meaningful and appropriate development".

Good luck
Manuel Golding
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 2:25 pm
Nice one Nick!
Whichever way Ryan Dance may wish to portray RoW, one thing we are not and that is against development in the right places, for the right reasons.
Unfortunately, CECs so called "future growth" is unsupported by real, hard evidence. Show us the methodology, show us what info etc you have started with, how you guestimate growth. But it will not, just reiterates the "growth" slogan time after time. No sound evidence forthcoming, one is then left with the firm belief it is pure wishful thinking. This is why so many reasonable people are highly suspicious of the motivation behind this "growth" push.
However, RoW is for development in the right places - we have shown CEC & the "independent" inspector that Wilmslow is growing, has plenty of brown sites for development. CE keeps telling us that we are advocating "pepper potting". Just look at its "independent" consultants proposed ideas on the Green Belt destruction - that is a classic case of "pepper potting". It seems there is one rule for us mere tax payers and a totally opposite one for CEC and the development/construction fraternity.
Ryan Dance
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 6:46 pm
Manuel..... I have no wish to portray any image other than flag hypocrisy and illustrate idealistic pie in the sky views.

Developers build to make a profit! yes! Charities are a great and honourable thing but they don't pay yours or my wages! ROW appear to oppose almost every development that doesn't fit their view of the world! e.g brownfield development with flats and 2 bed semis.

At the same time, continuing to enjoy their gated 4-5 bedroom detached houses selling for a snip at £600k! Demand exists in Wilmslow...... thus they build!
Jackie Pass
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 7:14 pm
Ryan - charities do pay a lot of peoples ' wages - many are large businesses with chief executives earning staggering sums.

As to "continuing to enjoy their gated 4-5 bedroom detached houses" - who exactly do you have in mind, because it certainly isn't me. In fact Rof W objected to a gated community in the Adlington Rd development!
Jack Pink
Thursday 11th June 2015 at 8:28 pm
This article is staggering. Has the author actually read the document? It's assessing the green belt, not where development should go. Of course CEC aren't going to allocate the Bollin for development but that doesn't mean it has to play a major green belt role. In green belt terms the Bollin isn't very important but it is for other reasons (leisure, ecology, etc). I suggest the author looks at the purposes of the green belt and reads the document again. It would also be a good idea to stop misleading people. Tell me where it says red sites will be developed and amber ones safeguarded? Bet you can't!
Dave Cash
Friday 12th June 2015 at 2:02 am
#Ryan Moated castles & chivaldric Knights are ancient!
The 'Green Belt' was only introduced, across the UK, by the 1948 Town & Countryside Act to provide a buffer around towns & villages, against the post WW2 building explosion. Many towns & cities learned to adapt and built Council high rise 'communities in the sky' or concrete blocks, for many orig residents an improvement on what they had before.
Today, aspirations are for 2+ storey properties pref with garden and/or private parking. I know, I have been there.
The green belt has previously protected Wilmslow and environs from being subsumed into Gtr Manchester.22
Swathes of City terraces have been bulldozed, at expense of the local 'community', when many could have been renovated for sig less than what was provided & with a later reduced sale price.
No area can avoid change, but it should be managed by requiring avail brownfield sites should take precedence over greenfield development.
I assume nationally the average cost diff is known, so that could be applie as a planning levy for permission to develop a greenfield site?
Ryan Dance
Friday 12th June 2015 at 7:55 am
Dave - in my book....a policy introduced some 60 years ago. Is ancient! so we will have to disagree on that one!
Manuel Golding
Friday 12th June 2015 at 10:23 am
It would appear that Ryan is looking for a concrete and brick jungle - a journey from Hazel Grove up to Oldham or Rochdale, a total swathe of urban sprawl, would create conversions to the green belt separation philosophy.
What was good 60 years ago is still good today, that trip should be proof enough.
Within the north of the CE borough area, the old Macc BC, there are countless large areas of brownfield sites lying derelict, eyesores blighting the local communities. These are the sites that should, indeed must, be redeveloped for the betterment of those localities.
CE has been told of them but prefers to ignore them, telling us the developers much prefer clear green fields to build on as is so much cheaper for them. But not for the local communities.
Ryan Dance
Friday 12th June 2015 at 11:42 am
Manuel - not at all!

Your comment "what was good 60 years ago is still good today" is somewhat misguided. I won't bore you with facts, however lets take 1 example ........ ONS population figures in 1950 was 50 million....we are now rapidly approaching 70 million. So applying 1950's policy to modern day times is nonsensical & somewhat bonkers.
Jackie Pass
Friday 12th June 2015 at 2:57 pm
Ryan - so there was a 40% increase. The population of England and Wales doubled from 1700 - 1800 - in other words 100% increase. For the nineteenth century it increased by 260%. So lets get the population increase into perspective please.
Ryan Dance
Friday 12th June 2015 at 3:33 pm
Jackie - are you really suggesting that population is not an issue? have I misinterpreted your point?

Index house price growth over the same date ranges and then cross reference this statistic against house building. A very clear correlation. Ignore the facts if you wish.

Supply and demand is the main problem. Basics economics Jackie. If you think population growth alongside dated & restrictive planning policy is not an issue........... i'm bemused.
Julie Green
Friday 12th June 2015 at 3:45 pm
Try having a look at the electoral commission's web-site re: donations by various developers to various political parties.....
Jackie Pass
Friday 12th June 2015 at 6:23 pm
Ryan - the rise in population needs to be put into perspective. To argue that Manuel's comment is out of date - I am merely pointing out that the scale of the rise in population is not actually that great if you look at the last time there was an industrial take-off. To argue that the rise is large and hence there has to be whole scale throwing out of policies is patently ridiculous. Yes, of course, we need more houses, but where is the crucial question, rather than a knee jerk response.
Ryan Dance
Friday 12th June 2015 at 6:59 pm
For 60 years or more - we have debated the need for housing. Check the facts. Rhetoric after rhetoric.....policy after policy....speech after speech......what an absolute joke and waste of taxpayers money.

These constant debates, public enquirers, white papers, green papers and how ever else we decide to badge them are an absolute bureaucratic nightmare and waste of money. The problem continues. Simple. High demand & poor supply = high prices driven by bureaucracy and unworkable planning policy.

Our nation procrastinates far too much.
Jack Pink
Friday 12th June 2015 at 7:13 pm
Where does it say the red sites will be built on?
Nick Jones
Friday 12th June 2015 at 7:13 pm
Magna Carta 600 yrs old .......a good piece of legislation still valid today. right to a fair trial ,,,ensuring monarchs and governments were held to public account ......same issues today
Ryan Dance
Friday 12th June 2015 at 7:16 pm
Nick........ and both judge made law and acts of parliament have aided it's relevance in the modern world
Jack Pink
Friday 12th June 2015 at 8:32 pm
WM04 would be a good site for more housing
Nick Jones
Friday 10th July 2015 at 11:25 am
Our Chancellor / MP’s recent speech + abandonment of his manifesto pledge regarding localism, now forcing councils to accept / develop Brownfield and attack the planning process certainly has put the cat amongst the pigeons. I am not against sensible and meaningful development of a proportionate nature (i.e.; good design, fitting social requirements BUT NOT EVERYWHERE),I can already hear shouts of the YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) and COGS (Concrete Over Green Spaces) “build everywhere who wants countryside anyway ! ” ringing in the ears of common sense . If sensibly designed and considered ..... development may be no bad thing. ......BUT...The government is preparing to do battle with local councils over this ..There is no incentive for developers to prepare the identified Brownfield sites, There will probably be a small take up in any event by developers who will now more than ever take CEC straight to Judicial process and the attack upon the green belt development will continue. Who will be the arbiters of this ? Govt? Courts ?. Particularly when the proposals discuss “ Automatic planning permission “ and penalties for not making the right decision in good time ( The YIMBY’s and COGS are probably ecstatic at this stage )
I am not bothered about the London Centric aspect of George’s policy, or HS2, or the ‘Dick Whittington’ Syndrome that he and others suffer where all roads must lead to London ..(I’ve worked there & I don’t want to live there), So as for a 3rd Runway at Heathrow...... Have it.... and a 4th and a 5th.. Concrete the lot ...Maybe start with the Brownfield Offices in Westminster, Whitehall, a few storeys on the top to accommodate first time buyers (Yes Right !) and the homeless can be no bad thing, but I suppose that wouldn’t be in the spirit of what is proposed. And if you want a concrete jungle near you, sell up and go find one.Im sure you will be very happy.....George states Britain has been “ Incapable of building enough homes “ and “ I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can’t do so “ Well in his constituency the current CEC plan to further sub divide the pockets of Green belt will do nothing to address these concerns. This will further attack green belt and the countryside.

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” or as Sir Humphrey explained “If no one knows what you’re doing then no one knows what you’re doing wrong “.......( Lyme Green etc)