Reader's Letter: What is Employment? Council Turns Down Jobs and Investment in Handforth


Cheshire East Council Strategic Planning Board has considered proposals from Alderley Edge based company Orbit Developments to regenerate old warehousing and an area of land which has been vacant since a Public Planning enquiry 18 years ago. The site adjacent to the Handforth Dean Shopping Centre which includes M & S, Tesco and Outfit.

New retail units would be a continuation of the existing shopping frontage from BHS to Pets at Home offices and compliment the retail offer already in the area with the new NEXT store under construction opposite the proposed buildings.

Up to 200 new jobs would be created by the new stores many of which local, as well as construction jobs and the wider investment in the area. There are previously approved plans to demolish the old warehousing and to construct offices, however despite 10 years of marketing and the speculative construction of an office building on nearby Epsom Avenue (which has remained empty for the last 8 years) there has been little interest and no occupiers.

A planning application was therefore submitted to enable the site to be brought into beneficial and productive employment use, supported by Handforth Parish Council.

Despite these circumstances, Cheshire East Council has refused the application solely based upon the Council Officers recommendation regarding 'Employment Land Policy' which seeks to retain the land for what might be described as more traditional uses of office, industrial, storage and warehousing.

This fails to recognise that in these diverse times jobs come in many forms. The policy protects a site where there is both a proven unrealistic prospect of these types of future jobs in buildings which would also be incompatible with the present and future retail surroundings. Policy is guidance and not mandatory, jobs are jobs and delivering real jobs the priority.

There are 7 people currently employed on the site who could either relocate or be provided with alternative job opportunities by the Emerson Group on adjacent areas of Earl Road, as well the new proposed retail scheme providing up to 200 new jobs, thereby protecting existing employees.

This is a modest retail scheme with limited loss of designated land and is located in a new retail environment. Section 106 contributions to training and investment in employment over and above those jobs created by proposed development, together with payments for local highways/footpath/lighting improvements, recreation, open green spaces and community projects in excess of £600,000 were also offered and declined.

It seems incomprehensible that a Policy designed for the economic benefit and growth in the area should restrict investment and the creation of jobs. Orbit are currently considering options for an appropriate way forward.

Mark Royle, Director, Orbit Developments.

Orbit Developments, Planning Applications


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

Debra Conroy
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 2:39 pm
The A34 is bad enough under normal circumstances. This would just make things impossible. I feel that this was a good decision.
John Harries
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 2:47 pm
Another addition to the property portfolio of Orbit regardless of use! Handforth Dean is becoming a typical mixed use, out of 'town' sprawl falling prey to greedy developers who only see business opportunities - do we residents really need this?
There is no plan for significant (as opposed to token) open spaces (no profit in those is there) to preserve a rural edifice to the northern boundary with GMC. It's all under pressure with what is now happening in and around Woodford, Bramhall, Cheadle Hulme, Heald Green and Handforth. Much of the largely rural land in this area of the northern arc of Wilmslow was acquired in a time of the extreme urgency bought about by WW2. Once that need receded restitution, not reconstitution, should be the guideline not a free-for-all land grab.
To quote some of our largest commercial operations touting for trade "once it's gone it's gone" - is that how we want it to be, bargain time for spivs and shysters who really couldn't care less.
John Fallows
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 3:18 pm
I think we would all be more inclined to support Mark's pleading if the other arm of his company wasn't trying to obliterate any remnants of green space in the area - and succeeding with the acquiescence of our lame councillors (Toni Fox excepted) . Why are our council turning down what appears to be a sensible use of brownfield land and approving developments which are rapidly destroying the green and attractive spaces of our area. Maybe they are afraid they will set a precedent for using brownfield sites ahead of greenfield?
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 3:54 pm
Is this the same company arguing for more "office space" in the Local Plan?
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 4:40 pm
Section 106 contributions to ........ in excess of £600,000 were also offered and declined. I thought this kind of offer usually lead to the courts.
Toni Fox
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 4:59 pm
Stanley Green Trading Estate has at least one large empty office building that has never been occupied - the plot next to is empty awaiting development of the next one. There are hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty offices in the Handforth and Wilmslow area.

In the news last week it was claimed that a third of those currently employed in retail will have lost their jobs in the next decade due to the decline in retail shops.

Around 18-24 months ago I repeatedly attempted, but failed, to elicit information from CEC as to why this land could not be designated for housing in line with this "Brownfield First" Policy. After all CEC's own documents claim it is suitable and available and deliver 150+ houses.

No doubt some would say "Who would want to live there?"

Similarly I would ask who is going to want to live in the North Cheshire Growth Village directly opposite - bordered on two sides by the A34 and A555 - IF it is taken out of the Green Belt following the Examination with the Inspector later in the year.

Engine of the North, the Councils property development company, is holding a one day public consultation event next Tuesday (8th March) at Total Fitness.

Their aim is to consult with residents on their views of what they would like to see incorporated in the unfolding "vision" for the new settlement. How can it become (and I quote) "a healthy, sustainable and green garden village"?

With great difficulty I would have thought given its location.
Jon Armstrong
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 5:31 pm
Comparing that with the "Growth Village" are chalk and cheese. This is a relatively small area, and would be completely surrounded by main roads and non-residential property. I'm all for using brownfield first but lets be real nobody would want to live there and they'd have to sell the houses for buttons to attract people, which isn't realistic.

This seems a better use for the site than what is there now.
Jon Williams
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 5:44 pm
A better plan would be a green space (park) with NO CARS and a place for shoppers, shop workers and office workers to sit out in !
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 6:12 pm
Jon - you might as well ask who would want to live the other side of the Handforth Dean development - namely Coppice Way, where planning permission has been granted for a retirement village. In Handforth village itself there are houses either side of industrial and office areas.

As to the idea of the Handforth Growth Village the contamination reports on that area should prove interesting given its previous use and given the historic landfill sites there. Seems to me that the best thing for this area is to green it over as parkland for the residents of both Stockport and Cheshire East to enjoy.
Mario West
Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at 8:22 pm
My guess is that CEC refused Orbit's plans as it may impact on their proposals to sell the adjacent parcel of land.

Interestingly the reports for the Handforth East housing site have been made available after an FoI request. Some information appears to have been withheld (allegedly until the Local Plan is out for consultation). However the emails indicate that there is radioactive contamination present in the soil at that site about which Cheshire East Council had concerns.

The planning application for this site also states that a radioactive contamination report was submitted but doesn't appear in the list of submitted documents.

Alan Wright
Thursday 3rd March 2016 at 7:00 am
It will be interesting to see what Cheshire East decide on the planning application for Handforth Shopping Park Phase 2 and 3 (of which Next is Phase 1) having turned down this retail application?
Vic Barlow
Thursday 3rd March 2016 at 5:26 pm
Lyme Green Business Park was imposed on Macclesfield residents some 20 years ago to 'meet the urgent need' of commerce and (of course) providing the obligatory promise of increased jobs.
In truth it stood largely unoccupied for a decade until existing businesses could be lured to Lyme Green with attractive deals. Car showrooms were the main benefactors.

Hence Macclesfield lost another open space to a development for which there was no demand.

A very similar argument is currently being used to develop greenbelt land to provide 'affordable homes' that will never be built.

That is not really on any developer's agenda.
Andrew Gardiner
Wednesday 9th March 2016 at 2:29 pm
As a specialist in commercial offices, I can confirm that there is some 205,000 sqft of vacant offices across Wilmslow, Handforth and Heald Green.

These range from the small to the large and the old to the new. It may seem like a lot to a casual observer, but in reality is only around 20% vacancy. This vacancy rate is consistent throughout the whole South Manchester office market which comprises some 12.85M sqft.

If all offices were let at all times, ie 0% vacancy, then rents would spiral upwards. As it is there is a currently a healthy balance between supply and demand.