Barlow's Beef: Local Plan Strategy - The Great Deception


Having received an email from Cheshire East inviting me to read their Local Plan Strategy I considered it my duty to do so. While having no specialist planning expertise I am familiar with online documents as most of my business is conducted via the Internet.

I spend hours reading documents online and can assure you there is absolutely no chance of the average resident navigating their way through this monstrous tome of jargon and indecipherable hypothesis. One small section I wished to examine had 250 pages alone.

Residents apart, I doubt there's more than a handful of Cheshire East Councillors who have actually read and understood the full Local Plan Strategy. Any commercial enterprise presenting a document such as this to prospective customers would very quickly find itself out of business.

Unless you have limitless time, a suitable degree and are thoroughly acquainted with town hall speak where no word is used when six can be inserted you have more chance of translating the Magna Carta into Cantonese than ploughing your way through this epic.

Sadly, I cannot advise you with any degree of accuracy how the revised Local Plan will affect your neighbourhood as I only have a limited number of years to live.

I can however give you a brief explanation of how and why swathes of open land are to be earmarked for housing development.

Our government, in all its wisdom, has suddenly realised house prices are beyond the reach of many families. Taking a wild guess at the demand it has decreed the number of new homes to be built around the country.

Not wishing to face voter backlash for its insistence on developing the greenbelt our government appointed Inspectors to act on its behalf (to take the blame).

Local councils, like Cheshire East, were ordered to release land for housing development opening the door for developers to acquire planning consent on much sought-after greenbelt land.

Many local organisations saw this as an opportunity to expand their own operations and rapidly submitted plans to exploit whatever undeveloped land they owned.

While swift to acquire sites rather than increase the housing supply developers are banking much of the land waiting for house prices to RISE.

As for the 'affordable homes' at the centre of this great deception developers will fight any commitment they may have to reduce their number with little or no resistance from local councils.

So, while builders manipulate the market to force house prices upwards and local organisations sell off land to fund their own grandiose expansion first-time buyers (the sole reason for invading the greenbelt) and local communities will get shafted.

Now, politicians can wrap it up in sufficient unintelligible words to fill Westminster but that, my friends, is the reality.

Should you doubt my words please count the number of 'affordable' homes being built right now in your area.

I rest my case.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Local Plan, Vic Barlow


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

Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 8th March 2016 at 12:51 pm
Vic - you forgot to mention the government is also giving councils a bribe (sorry I mean the New Homes Bonus Scheme) to build more houses. So now both the councils and developers have a vested interest to build more homes. The fact local communities want to keep their green belt as fields though is just a minor inconvenience.

Still, the Local Plan will fix all that. Bombard people with far too much information and hope they don't notice all the stitch up's buried within the detail. And when they do notice, the perpetrators can all pretend it was done in a democratic way, so its too late to reverse it. Or else they scale it back their plans by building fewer but bigger houses on the same fields.

It's a cunning scheme that even Stalin would be proud of. Everyone else though should feel deep shame and outrage at being involved in this public fraud called the "Local Plan".

Just remember this next time you vote though as there is seemingly very little we can do about it till then.
Manuel Golding
Tuesday 8th March 2016 at 3:03 pm
Vic, once again you are right on the money.
RoW gas been contacted by a number of bemused town residents - those who had not completed their Vision questionnaire a couple of years or so ago will have received letters from CEC, advising them to make their opinions known "via its (the Council's) online consultation portal." Ut then goes onto instruct "A;; forms must be completed online or received by the Spatial Team..." etc. It further informs that "documents will be available to view online"; "printed copies at CEC" libraries etc.

The truth is that a large number especially elderly & infirm people do not use the internet, are not able to go to a library, not able to spend hours trawling through c 700 pages of gobbledygook in a library. They require copies to be collected for them or by them, to take home, to sit in comfort and try to make sense of the charade. Cheshire East has once again chosen to ignore these people. When I contacted it to complain, the response was initially that 1) we cannot do anything about the problem raised, 2) always go into a library 3) we probably cannot supply documents to be taken away.

This is sheer arrogance being displayed once again by this uncaring and unthinking authority.

If this is a true "public consultation" the Council MUST provide the necessary paper documents for such residents to study, consider & make their responses from home.

I have written to Adrian Fisher, Head of Planning Strategy, requiring him to do the "decent thing" and make photo-copies available of all CECs plans, sites, justifications etc for all sites in all towns. Mr Pratt may well have given somes sort of approval for this half measured consultation without realising the Council is attempting to "disenfranchise" a large segment of the population.

Finally, if CECs portal history is to be repeated, anyone attempting to submit via the Council's portal will find they are being times out, repeatedly.

Residents of Wilmslow will be issuing its considered responses to each of the local targeted sites within the next few days. If you have not already done so, you may register your wish to receive our responses, please email us at , or or phone 07930 377778.
Tuesday 8th March 2016 at 4:20 pm
With considerable effort I have now managed to use the online portal. What you have to remember is that when you go to the "comment" box - it opens to put in your comments ( so far so good), but it has moved the paragraph you want to comment on to the bottom of the page. To speed things up I then "cut and pasted" the paragraph to the "comments box" so that I could see and refer to it without scrolling up and down all the time. I then removed the "cut and pasted" paragraph. It is not rocket that you need to see what you are responding to easily.
Christopher Baker
Wednesday 16th March 2016 at 11:20 am
I very much hope that residents will not be deterred from responding to the Consultation.
The Local Plan, if approved, will change the face of Wilmslow and Handforth.
Acting upon my impression that the online consultation process was viewed by some as "user unfriendly", I have elicited the following statement from Cheshire East:

"... Submissions can be made online via the Council’s online consultation portal. There are [also] copies of the paper forms available in the Council’s libraries and customer service centres. The Council will also accept submissions made via e-mail to and [by] post to Spatial Planning Team, Westfields, C/O Earle Street, Crewe, CW1 2BJ. The Council encourages online submissions, where possible, to save on paper."

A visit to your local Council library could prove to be helpful, as they have paper copies of background documentation (for reference in the library) as well as the response forms (and accompanying instructions) for one to take away to complete.