Following a legal challenge, Cheshire East Council has backtracked on their decision to remove the North Cheshire Garden Village from the emerging Handforth Neighbourhood Plan.
Cheshire East Council announced last week that the emerging Handforth Neighbourhood Plan, which is currently being created to enable residents and businesses to influence the development of their village, cannot cover the garden village, which is located just off the A34 opposite Handforth Dean Retail Park.
Speaking last week, 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."
This announcement came after the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (HNPSG) had applied to have all the land within the parish boundaries as the Handforth Neighbourhood Area, which Cheshire East Council had accepted.
As a result the HNPSG researched the legal position and discovered that Cheshire East Council's proposed action to remove the site of the North Cheshire Garden Village from the proposed neighbourhood area was a breach of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) and Development Management Procedure (Amendment) Regulations 2016 and therefore illegal.
HNPSG pointed out in writing to Cheshire East that Regulation 5A, entitled "Designation of the whole area of a parish council", applies where: a local planning authority receive an area application from a parish council; the area specified in the application consists of the whole of the parish council's area; and if any part of the specified area is part of a neighbourhood area, none of that area extends outside the parish council's area.
HNPSG said "It seems clear that, in the case of HNPSG's application for the designation of a neighbourhood area, all three conditions apply and therefore the local planning authority must (under the law) designate all that land within the parish boundaries as the Handforth neighbourhood area. We trust that you will therefore retract your proposal to remove the site of the North Cheshire Garden Village from our requested neighbourhood area.
"Note, most importantly, that we wish our original application to stand (you informed us that there were no objections to the application) and we look forward to your very early designation of all the land within the parish boundaries as the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Area."
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, responded the same day saying "On review of the legislation it was clear that new regulations were recently introduced and we too had found that these changes mean that the North Cheshire Garden Village should not be excluded from the neighbourhood area.
"So, in light of this, I've reviewed the decision and can confirm that the whole of Handforth Parish, including the North Cheshire Garden Village, is now to be designated as the Handforth Neighbourhood Area."
He added "Our commitment to Handforth and the early delivery of the North Cheshire Growth Village remains a high priority for the Council and we look forward to continue working with the Parish Council and Handforth residents to ensure we all get the best from this important development opportunity."
Dr Roger Small, chairperson of the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said "The Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group are delighted to learn that Cheshire East Council have retracted their plan to remove the North Cheshire Garden Village site from the Handforth Neighbourhood Area.
"The Steering Group look forward to continuing to work with Cheshire East Council not only in progressing the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan but also in providing timely and useful input into the development of the North Cheshire Garden Village."