As previously reported work is now well underway to create a Neighbourhood Plan for Handforth, which is a community led plan that sets out the vision and policies for the future development of the village.
Neighbourhood Plans effectively replaced Parish and Town Plans when they were introduced as part of the Localism Act 2011, enabling towns and villages to establish local planning policy that is relevant to their communities and help shape development in their areas.
However, much to the disappointment of Handforth residents and the Neighbourhood Plan Team, Cheshire East Council has decided that the emerging Handforth Neighbourhood Plan, which is being created to enable Handforth residents and business to influence the development of their village, cannot cover the garden village because this it is "a completely separate entity and it makes sense not to include the scheme within the proposed neighbourhood plan".
The Green Belt site, allocated within the Cheshire East Local Plan and located just off the A34 near Handforth Dean retail Park, has now been supported under the government's garden town and village programme. It will provide around 1,500 new homes by 2030 - including starter homes, affordable homes and the opportunity for self-build.
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "Given the need to progress the new village, there needs to be a secure and certain planning framework. Therefore, we are not proposing that the emerging Handforth neighbourhood plan covers this site.
"We want to ensure that the new garden village has the clearest possible framework to guide its development. We therefore feel that to overlay the existing local plan with further policies within the neighbourhood plan, operating on a different set of timescales, would complicate an already complex planning situation.
"We are very keen that local people are closely involved in the planning of the new village and that this is best done within the context of the Local Plan rather than a separate development plan.
"This will enable us all to move ahead and plan the village community and the new homes that so many people need."
Councillor Barry Burkhill said "The designation of the North Cheshire Growth Village as being part of the Neighbourhood Area for the Neighbourhood Plan is important because it would mean that Handforth and not CEC would be entitled to receive an extra amount of either 106 money or CIL money for the 65% of the Strategic North Cheshire Greenbelt land being used for development in CEC's Local Plan. This has now been rejected by CEC after initially raising no objections.
"This comes as a surprise to us all and has caused much upset to Handforth residents and the Neighbourhood Plan Team. Here we have another example of the rapacious attitude of CEC towards Handforth where every penny is being squeezed out of the area to fund the promises made to projects elsewhere in the Borough, particularly for the Congleton By-Pass where there is a shortfall of about £43m."
He added "As the Government's Local Plan Inspector has made no recommendations to change any part of the Plan as far as Handforth is concerned, CEC are putting the boot into Handforth and its Parish Area. The hundreds of letters and voices and personal representations to the Inspector have counted for nothing. We are suffering from an elected dictatorship determined to get its own way and to rake in as much money from Handforth as possible."
Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group have issued the following statement to wilmslow.co.uk:
"The Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group have today received a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which states:
'Where a local planning authority receive an area application from a parish council and the area specified in the application consists of the whole of the parish council's area and none of the specified area extends outside of the parish councils area than the local planning authority must designate the whole of the parish area as a neighbourhood area.
'You may wish to discuss this further with your local planning authority. Given both the Parish and District Councils' support for the new garden village I hope that you will be able to find a positive and mutually satisfactory way forward.'
"The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group intend to forward this letter to Cheshire East Council and await their response with considerable interest."
The council's wholly-owned company Engine of the North expects to be in a position to submit outline plans for the 102-hectare site later this year when a consultation process will take place.
Company chairman Councillor Jamie Macrae said: "It is envisaged that the garden village would see extensive areas of green landscaping, trees and open spaces, incorporating new green transport links and cycle ways, together with the required infrastructure such as schools and health facilities."
Cheshire East Council said that in order to finalise and refine the site proposals, a consultation process will take place to enable all those with an interest to contribute to the discussion and influence the shape and various elements of the development. We are currently awaiting confirmation from Cheshire East Council as to when the consultation process will commence.
Photo: Aerial view.