Barlow's Beef: It's good to touch the green green grass of home (before it's gone)


I've just read a letter in our parish magazine urging residents to make representations during the public consultation period ending April 19. 'To date the views of house builders and major land owners have persuaded the Council to allocate large greenfield sites for development,' states the author.

He adds that regardless of your views it is important to express your opinion on the revised plan as you can be sure house builders will be trying to persuade the Council to increase housing numbers. To date the developers have been very successful at getting large areas of land taken out of the Green Belt.

Okay, so that's just one person's view except the author of this particular letter is none other than Peter Yates who was chief planning officer of Macclesfield Borough Council for 26 years. If anyone knows how these 'public consultations' work he certainly does.

Nothing less than a cacophony makes any impression on council officials who regard public opinion with scarcely disguised contempt. We are uneducated rabble to be patronised and ignored (for our own good).

You may be sick and tired of this whole damn land-grab process but when your ex chief planning officer tells you to 'express your views' lest developers and land owners cosy up to the Council and have it all their own way it's wise to listen.

In my experience many of the participants involved in these grand schemes are usually long gone by the time reality hits home. You may recall the willingness with which MBC granted late night liquor licences to the big breweries despite overwhelming public objection.

By the time it became obvious that far from creating a 'European café culture all night boozing simply fuelled anti-social behaviour those who had championed the change had left the scene leaving residents to deal with the fall-out.

Clearly Mr Yates fears that vested interests will rule the day unless residents state their case loudly and in public. Given the scant regard shown to communities thus far he has a good point.

At the very start of the process Mr Yates offered to show Cheshire East a large number of brownfield sites suitable for housing development. That offer was never accepted and one has to ask why?

Could it be that the addition of those sites interfered with unspoken 'arrangements' made with certain parties?

I don't know the answer to that. I do know that when the man who ran the planning department for over quarter of a century tells us we must act to save our green spaces we should do so.

If digging up green fields while leaving ugly brownfield sites go untouched makes sense to you you may go back to sleep. If not act NOW.

To register your views on the Local Plan Strategy Proposed Changes, visit the Cheshire East website pages on the Local Plan.

Alternatively, you can fill in a comment form at Wilmslow library.

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

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


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

David Lewis
Wednesday 23rd March 2016 at 3:42 pm
Vic is so right to urge everyone in Wilmslow and Handforth to make their views known in the consultation. If the plan goes ahead unchanged we will all be affected by:

• A huge increase in traffic and gridlocking on the A34 at peak times (don’t forget the impact of the housing going up at Woodford on the old aerodrome site)

• A large increase in commuting both ways, into and out of Wilmslow and Handforth

• An even greater shortage in primary and secondary school places with nothing in the plan for extra provision

• A severe shortage of health services with no plans in place for extra provision

• Loss of green open space with an impact on recreation, air quality and wild life

• Wilmslow sprawling into Handforth and Stockport

• Building more than 36,000 houses in the borough as a whole over half of which are to accommodate people it is somehow estimated will migrate into Cheshire East

• No adequate provision for much needed housing that is truly affordable for those starting out on their careers
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 23rd March 2016 at 4:00 pm
Cheshire East Council, pushed, shoved, prodded by government and avaricious developers leaves Joe Public in a very precarious position.

The large developers, sniffing around the north of the borough, with their large fangs open to devour all and any plot of Green Belt, have and will throw £tens of thousands into the pot to get their prize piece of England's green and pleasant land. Meanwhile, they will all go to appeal after appeal to get their prize, win and sit on the land in their greed has blighted, in their "land-banks".

Paul Schofield, director-general for housing & planning at the Dept for Communities & Local Gov says "The big issue that volume builders want a 20% return on capital and build only at the speed they can see sales coming forward..." Schofield then told MPs that smaller builders would . " out at pace...". It is the large housing firms that are badly letting the country down, they are only concerned with and focused on their bottom line, not the country's crying needs.

They are not interested in brown field sites when it is going to inhibit their 20% margin factor.Therefore it is all tally-ho to the Green Belt and green fields for them.Cheshire East Council, pushed, shoved, prodded by government and avaricious developers leaves Joe Public in a very precarious position.

This illustrates developer tactics - Cheshire East's own figures for the period of the LPs life, 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2015 (I haven't got the Council's latest): Planning permissions granted: 18.935 homes, Homes built 3,552. If developers were so desperate to build homes why had they only seen fit to build under 19% of their approvals? Simple - this keeps the market price at the maximum. Meanwhile, the fact the country desperately needs housing, albeit of the "affordable" type, is irrelevant to our greedy big building companies. Meanwhile, they will spend on appeals to obtain planning permissions on sites councils had initially turned down. Developers cite "5 years housing supply" in mitigation which isn't there because they are not building. So they win more permissions, creating neighbourhood blight and repeat the process - not building, more appeals etc.

They cannot lose but we do!
Simon Worthington
Thursday 24th March 2016 at 8:47 am
How interesting Mr. Yates sees fit to comment after 26 years of granting permission for building all over the borough's green and pleasant fields!!!
Thursday 24th March 2016 at 9:48 am
Simon - he also protected some of our green and pleasant fields, and what the new Local Plan proposes is more than 100% more than the original local plan. Furthermore, new estates had pavements on both sides of the road and not just 1 pavement, or no pavements at all, as some new developments seem to be. Even the original Summerfields has less density than the estates now being planned and more greenery built into the scheme. Plus, whilst the economy was buoyant the sites which are now "brownfield", and being ignored, were thriving.
Manuel Golding
Thursday 24th March 2016 at 8:04 pm
May I take this opportunity to point some pertinent facts out to Simon Worthington and to thereby put him on the right track with an understanding of just what the defunct but lamented Macclesfield Borough Council sort to achieve

The Green Belt boundaries were drawn tightly around the Borough's towns & villages over 30 years ago.
Land which had previously been allocated for housing development in Wilmslow and Poynton was put back into the Green Belt thus restricting the spread of concrete over our precious green fields.
Over the past 20 years well over 80% of housing development has been on brownfield sites.
Over the period 2003-13 the figure was 89%.

Now here is the BIG difference between the Macclesfield Borough's Local Plan strategy -
The Macclesfield Borough Local Plan was a brownfield first Plan.
The Cheshire East Local Plan is a greenfield first Plan.

The result of this major difference is that Macclesfield Borough's planning department, led by Peter Yates, was to prioritise brownfields and not to build on our "green and pleasant land", as Simon Worthington mistakenly accuses Peter Yates. Whereas Cheshire East's plan, led by the former leader Cllr Michael Jones, followed by his sycophantic Party councillors and by the Council's chief planner, has been just the opposite - to bully everyone into accepting the wanton and unnecessary destruction (= loss) of the valuable Green Belt. Why? To appease the avaricious building industry which is too lazy and greedy to consider the local concerns, going for the greater profit margin without any consideration for the neighbourhoods they will destroy for ever. There are brownfield sites aplenty within the old Macc Borough area, the Council should demand these are developed first. But it will not, preferring to curry favour with the developers over local voters.

Simon, judging by your remarks, I take it you are concerned with the loss of the old "borough's green and pleasant fields!". In which case, we will welcome you in joining Residents of Wilmslow in our fight to keep the Green Belt from developers concrete, which will result in mass traffic jams, totally inadequate road system, chronic shortage of school places, overrun sewage system, over burdened medical services, lack of public transport - no provisions for these have been included in this Council's Local Plan.

It is a recipe for gridlock disaster.
David Lewis
Friday 25th March 2016 at 10:15 pm
Take a look at the sites that are coming forward for Stockport right on the boundary with Cheshire East:

If many of these are selected for development in the Greater Manchester Local Plan there is going to be huge traffic congestion and good bye to a lot of the green belt. Cheshire East's greenfield first policy will then really hit us all!
Tress Attwell
Friday 25th March 2016 at 11:13 pm
As one who is a victim of Michael Jones and his council I urge people to protest against the loss of our green belt land. The development off Adlington Road, which is behind our house, is well under way. The houses are packed in with very small gardens and minimum spaces between plots and boundries. The congestion due to the eight week closure of Adlington road illustrates what will happen when more cars are on the road because of all the extra houses being built in the area and it will only get worse.
My sister, who lives in Sandbach, went to a planning meeting to see what was going to happen to the fields near her house. The consultation which was to have lasted all day was ended after only a few hours. She was told not to worry as the council were going to get their housing quota by developing the land around Wilmslow !!! Our green belt doesn't seem to stand a chance of remaining safe from the builders if the planners seem to have already made up their minds.
Register your protests before it is too late.
Simon Worthington
Saturday 26th March 2016 at 9:37 am
Thank you for correcting me Manuel. I totally endorse your last paragraph and it encapsulates what I have been posting for some time. Grove Avenue has waste water/sewage issues due to 6 or 7 houses being replaced by some 80 apartments and a large office block with no attention to necessary facilities. However I doubt your figures of 80% and 89%. This may be accurate if counting the number of units given the over development of small plots with blocks of flats - Grove Avenue, Chapel lane (new application pending), Station House, Bank Square etc. If the land area developed is measured I think the figures would be quite different.
Saturday 26th March 2016 at 1:19 pm
That Manchester map which shows possible development sites in Woodford, Bramhall, and Cheadle Hulme, in combination with the sites in the Cheshire East Local Plan means that the whole of the Northern Green Belt will be gone. No doubt this is what developers want, it also appears to be what Cheshire East wants since there is a considerable amount of brownfield land within Cheshire East itself.

I remember a plan by Prescott to have the North West as one area - seems to me that we are getting this by the back door.
Manuel Golding
Saturday 26th March 2016 at 3:31 pm
Simon, as I thought, we are on the same side of the Save our Green Belt issue.
The percentage figures I quoted came from a most reliable source and via the old Macclesfield Borough Council's own records.
Macclesfield B C's strict policy was "Brownfields First" and this protected our Green Belt.
Unfortunately, Cheshire East Council's policy is completely at odds with the former, it is
definitely "Green Belt (and fields) First" - this is what the large developers want so CEC will give it to them.
Let's be quite frank, as far as the leadership & planners at CEC are concerned, developers are far more important than we mere voters. They deliver money, loads of it, whereas we are only able to deliver a vote once in 4 years.