Barlow's Beef: Hands up any who understands the new Local Plan


I've been having another look at the all-new improved top-of-the range Local Plan and I'm err... what's the word? Baffled, yes that's the one.

Of all the adjectives available to describe their decision making process Cheshire East choose but one. They are so fond of it they attach it to every statement they make. It's not quite as long as some of the job titles they use (Director of Adult Social Care and Independent Living - wonder how they fit that title on the office door?).

No, the word they use to describe every action they take is 'transparent'. My dictionary defines that as 'having thoughts, feelings or motives that are easily perceived.'

Mmm... where were we? Oh yes, the Local Plan. If you haven't read it give it a whirl. It's about as 'transparent' as an MP's expense account. Unless you are a qualified architect of considerable standing married to a QC you won't have a clue.

Far from embracing the second adjective adored by all councils everywhere 'inclusive' the new super-duper Local Plan is just about as 'exclusive' as it's possible to make it (unless it's written in Chinese glyphs).

So... if you want to make a valid objection to any part of the Local Plan you need the services of some very expensive professionals which Aunty Doris, living on a state pension or Cheryl and Dave struggling to finance a mortgage and three kids just cannot afford.

Next thing that occurs to me is, there aren't any new schools, hospital facilities, doctor's surgeries, fire stations, public buildings or parks in this oh-so-clever plan. Given the dramatic increase in house building it's likely we shall need all of these so where are they?

I'm no planning expert, but having a public consultation for a plan very few residents can comprehend and omitting the necessary schools and health-care facilities implicit in the forecasted population growth seems err... what's the word?

Stupid, yes that's the one.

If I was a cynical man I'd say the entire process was designed to exclude and dupe any party likely to object who does not possess the resources to employ top professional advisers.

Obviously this won't include landowners or developers but will be totally beyond the reach of 99.9 per cent of all residents. From past experience I'd say the ones likely to benefit from this public exercise in obfuscation will be long-gone when the results of this deception become clear.

That, my friends, is democracy.

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

Barlows Beef, Local Plan, Vic Barlow


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

Manuel Golding
Tuesday 5th April 2016 at 6:36 pm
Vic, you are dead right, again. The one thing CECs Local Plan is not is "transparent". There are a number of reasons it is not so and if I didn't know better or was not a cynic I would dare to say it is "deliberate policy" to confuse, deter and turn potential concerned residents from submitting their very real concerns with this politically manipulated Plan & its response process.

Initially I asked Adrian Fisher, Head of Planning Strategy (whatever that really means), why is the response web site so complex, a number of older residents do not either use t'internet nor have the skills to navigate CECs laborious route. He rather dismissed the thought, after all, he said, he didn't "do" IT at school.Also, I again questioned that "time outs" occur when being used, thus freezing out responders when struggling to navigate. Again dismissed. This example does clearly explain the arrogance of CEC.

We have had a rather large number of concerned supporters asking for info on how to respond, having given up on CECs portal. These include a university maths professor, some IT consultants, architect, teachers, business executives and more. Bit not a planning Q.C. yet!

The Local Plan, its "public consultation" palliative and its response minefield are designed to favour its "Stakeholders" (which CEC defines as developers & estate agents - that tells us everything), not the tax paying residents.

You ask about infrastructure Vic? It isn't in the LP; no mention of what will be required to give us all a decent quality of life under the new "build, build" regime. We will desperately require a road's strategy,new schools, hospital facilities, doctor's surgeries, fire & police stations, public buildings,parks and public transport are all unmentionables and clearly never enter into planners, council leaders and developers thoughts. Heaven forbid! Why pit the horse before the cart when they can develop with just a cart?

It is all about massaging the in-migration and commercial growth figures to arrive at the answer the Council requires. Retro fitting it is called with at least one neighbouring council has accused CEC of this.

Back to the case in point, the difficulty we mere mortals are experiencing with this Council's response on line site. Some would say it is "deliberate obstruction".
Manuel Golding
Tuesday 5th April 2016 at 6:45 pm
Residents of Wilmslow is hoping to post tomorrow on its website a guide and recommended list of comments for the Local Plan responses. However, it is most important you do so in your own words.

In view of the difficulty very many people are having with the Council's own on-line response portal, RoW suggests respondents either email theirs to or by post to Spatial Planning Team, Westfields, C/o Earle Street, CREWE CW1 2BJ.

RoW's website is at
Christopher Baker
Wednesday 6th April 2016 at 2:35 pm
Citizens around the world have given up their lives to secure rights to democratic participation. We cannot let the opportunity to submit our views on the Local Plan pass by without, at the very least, setting pen to paper or typing out an E-mail, to convey our views. I would imagine, incidentally, that Cheshire East anticipates that nearly all of the residents who submit their views will be critical of some aspect of the plan. They may try to suggest that all the residents who are critical have submitted their views, so please respond to the consultation.

To master all the accumulated Local Plan documentation may require more than a single lifetime, but it is possible to make sensible comments based on a general understanding and the latest documents. The task of responding is manageable if local residents limit their scope to comments on Wilmslow, Handforth, Alderley Edge – but especially to planned developments in their immediate neighbourhood.

A Plan where discussions of schooling and health-care facilities implicit in the population growth are absent is almost certainly “UNSOUND”. I think that's one of the words that planners do not want to see! Terms you may think applicable to other aspects of the Local Plan are "unsustainable" and "undeliverable". If that is indeed your view, why not send them an E-mail (to ), giving your name and address!!?

On a slightly wider topic, a national group (LPEG, established by government ministers) has published their report
(this is not a typo) on how local plan-making can be made "more efficient and effective". You may feel this description is a euphemism for "less democratic". In any case, you can submit a response by 27 April 2016 via
Jane Middleton
Wednesday 6th April 2016 at 5:54 pm
Excellent - Vic's article ticks all the boxes while the plan ticks very few.
Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 7th April 2016 at 11:01 am
Vic - you miss the point. It is specifically designed to be baffling.

That way, the council and developers can do what they want. Once the outcome is clear to the public, their complaints will be dismissed as "well, it was all in the Local Plan and it's too late to change it now".

The whole over-blown process has been created to subvert democracy.

It deserves nothing but our contempt.
Thursday 7th April 2016 at 12:57 pm
Mark, would agree with you except I'm not convinced that our Council have waited for the outcome of the Local Plan Examination. Look at the plan carefully and look around when you are out and about at the sites up for "consultation"
Vic Barlow
Thursday 7th April 2016 at 5:58 pm
So a plan which 99% of residents cannot comprehend will be imposed upon us changing our communities forever and voters will have no genuine input into the decision making process.

Isn't this how Donald Trump came to be front runner to lead the Republican party into the next election?

The Establishment has lost all credibility.

Our PM is leading multi national discussions on tax avoidance while his own family is featured in documents alleging its involvement in those activities.

The arrogance and duplicity of the political elite knows no bounds.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 7th April 2016 at 8:22 pm
The CEC Planning Portal comment section seems almost to have been designed to deter residents from commenting. This was the experience of many people at the time of the (totally ignored by CEC) Wilmslow Vision "consultation".

I have just been trying to make some comments on the various sections affecting Green Belt destruction in Wilmslow; I managed to make the fist comment and save it to the site (it now goes off for approval (by whom?) before being displayed. When I tried to add a second comment to another section I got this message "The event is not currently available for consultation." I tried several other sections, all the same- not available. I logged out and logged in again- same result, not available.

There might well be somewhere on the CEC website to raise issues such as this but I am unable to find it.

Perhaps our local CEC Councillors would care to comment? I would particularly welcome any response from Cllr Stockton and Cllr Menlove, who voted to remove the Green Belt protection from the areas around Wilmslow.
Pete Taylor
Friday 8th April 2016 at 8:23 pm
24 hours later I am still unable to make further comments in any section: "The event is not currently available for consultation."
Christopher Baker
Sunday 10th April 2016 at 11:58 am
If you find that the portal is unfriendly not to say obstructive, send an e-mail or a letter (with advice of receipt if you can get it) to supply your response to the consultation. If you mail it, proof of posting costs nothing!

Why not e-mail -- or phone -- a separate complaint (to ) with a cc to the Inspector Mr Stephen Pratt (via )?

It is of interest that I have not spotted a response from our planning officers on these pages and I wonder whether they read them. Personally, I am not sure whether I am more upset by the content of the Local Plan than by the way that the public have been treated. It is essential that we make sure that our views are sent in and we only have just over a week to do it.