Barlow's Beef: Handforth Residents are not easily duped


If you knew you were going to upset the company on whom you relied for your employment, you would probably think very carefully about it. You'd want to check and recheck your facts before you made waves. The last thing you'd want would be to create animosity on totally erroneous information. Were you to do so your credibility (and your job) would be in serious jeopardy.

Suppose... just suppose you went ahead with your controversial plan and when challenged insisted you had all the correct information. Let us assume your company subsequently carried out their own research and discovered the basis on which you based your case was entirely wrong.

They could come to only two conclusions i.e. you made a deliberate attempt to mislead the company or you are totally incompetent. Either way you have no future.

In January Cheshire East Council, knowing the distress it would cause to Handforth residents, announced plans to go ahead with a 'Garden Village' without any reference to local opinion.

Councillor Barry Burkhill said at the time: "This comes as a surprise to us all and has caused much upset to Handforth residents and the Neighbourhood Plan Team."

You really would want to be sure of your facts before causing that amount of distress in the community. CEC have enough resources and legal clout to check their position before announcing such controversial plans. Upsetting residents unnecessarily is not a recipe for creating goodwill.

Nevertheless CEC were adamant: "we are not proposing that the emerging Handforth neighbourhood plan covers this (Garden Village) site," was their unyielding response. They didn't actually say 'so up yours' but that was the general tenor.

The Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (HNPSG) refused to capitulate and carried out their own research which proved that CEC's attempt to exclude the Garden Village from the Neighbourhood Plan was a breach of the regulations and therefore illegal.

"So, in light of this, we'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," said CEC.

So what do you think? Did CEC make a deliberate attempt to mislead or are they simply incompetent?

Before you come to a conclusion consider the sequence of events at Lyme Green.

The parish council pointed out to CEC that illegal work was being carried out at Lyme Green. CEC made repeated denials sending representatives to parish meetings to assure residents this was not the case.

A vigilant local resident subsequently supplied the press with photographic evidence of work in progress before CEC finally admitted they were building a waste recycling plant on the site WITHOUT planning approval.

There followed a £500K independent inquiry much of which was redacted to ensure taxpayers did not have the full story.

So were CEC attempting to hoodwink the people of Handforth or were they just incompetent?

I shall leave it for you to decide.

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

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


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

Jonathan Follows
Tuesday 28th February 2017 at 9:12 am
I don't think CEC made a deliberate attempt to mislead. I do think that some of its members feel that they are judged on their achievements and that the route they take to accomplish something is not going to be put under much scrutiny, and in this they are increasingly wrong.

As I commented separately, the stated purpose of a 'garden village' calls out for its inclusion in a neighbourhood plan. It seems to me that this is stunningly obvious. So it was just perceived expediency and an easier means to an end which led to the initial attempt to exclude it. It is only fortunate that this also turned out to be illegal, because otherwise where would we be?
Tuesday 28th February 2017 at 1:49 pm
Jonathan - your belief in human nature and Cheshire East does you credit. As far as I can see it is easy for local government to "hide behind" the "we are just incompetent" argument. Everything in local government is done for a reason.
Justin Handby
Tuesday 28th February 2017 at 4:12 pm
IMO it is clearly an attempt to recurve so as to push through this awful "garden village" plan and also divert section 106 monies away from the local area and into over running schemes elsewhere in the borough where CEC's loyalties truly lie. Handforth, Wilmslow and the area are just a cash cow to CEC, pack em in and take the money.
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 1st March 2017 at 4:16 pm
Here we go again!!! Or, to be more accurate, here goes Cheshire East Council on yet another of its highly dubious and devious escapades. Lyme Green was only the start of the continuing wave of deceptions foisted upon the tax payers of this irresponsible, uncaring, inconsiderate, money wasting and often brutal council.
It has tried at Handforth to hoodwink the locals, gerrymandering its arguments to get its own way knowing full well the extent of local opinion. Was it acting dishonestly? Citing ignorance of the law is not an excuse for questionable & unlawful behaviour.
Wilmslow has seen similar deceptions, moving the goalposts to suit the Council's duplicitous scheming to obtain the rigged results it wants. A prime example is the 10 hectares the council's Local Plan says it requires for new commercial development in the town (the LP time-span is from 2010 to 2030). The new Waters site commenced building in 2011 taking an additional 5.3 hectares of Green Belt. This left 4.7hs for all other commercial builds - Wilmslow Business Park at 5.3 hs & Royal London at 11.3 hs, both green belt sites.When Residents of Wilmslow pointed this out to the Council planners we were told that Waters' area would not be included within the 10 hs as "it was outside the LP period" At a later stage RoW again put the figures & dates to the the misnamed "Independent" planning inspector, only to be told the Council's argument will prevail. Makes one wonder?
The Council's political leadership and its supporters on the council, its officers and then the "independent" inspector have all colluded in this gross deception - in fact worse, I'd say deliberate untruths.
No wonder the public does not trust this Council or its paid (public?) servants.
As with Lyme Green, Handforth, Wilmslow's commercial green belt requirements, and probably numerous other instances across the borough, we see a ever growing record of questionable and incompetent officialdom.
The only answer is to vote these people out, right out, of office and jobs at the next election (and no contract cessation pay-offs for employees- we've been screwed enough!).
We've made a start in Wilmslow with Residents of Wilmslow's independent Cllr Toni Fox (Dean Row), following Handforth, Alderley Edge & Bollington's growing band of independent councillors.
By voting for more RoW independent minded people, not party fodder as we currently suffer, Wilmslow will only then have its voice heard.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 1st March 2017 at 7:15 pm
@ Manuel , Vic... We have evidenced such collusion before; Lyme Green,Cllr asleep on his watch, decisions made without his knowledge, Other Cllrs telling us; “Important lessons in life are often hard learnt and this is no exception. I accept we could have approached this matter in a much better way” Their leader M Jones (Of Corefit notoriety & ongoing law enforcement investigation) promised to “make Cheshire East Council more transparent and open” ! !... and oversaw resignations of others accompanied by their handsome severance payment / other financial compensation. Again Cllrs didn't see what another report would achieve. ?? Really ??? We then have the issue of elected Cllrs voting against public concern to remove the Green Belt protection from around Wilmslow followed by the "public consultation" Local Plan engagement demonstrably ignored... but now followed with an invitation for more of the same !! The acknowledgement of individual and collective shortcomings failures again appears swept to one side evidenced by the absence of meaningful explanation. More of the same won’t work! Then we have Co-Socious debacle, CEC fiscal chicanery and their inverse understanding of mathematics leading to a 5% Tax increase (or should that be saving in CEC speak) It’s simply beyond contempt. How much of our tax money have they already wasted?? The biggest saving in merging East and West just never happens. ‘Efficiency’ and ‘quality in our services’ are phrases used again by CEC with ‘Alternative Fact’ Trump conviction. We need independent Cllrs to represent resident’s views and start actually saving our tax dollars by using them wisely and engaging in appropriate planning process. As Sir Humphrey once said “The public doesn't know anything about wasting government money. We're the experts”. When’s that election ?
John Harries
Wednesday 1st March 2017 at 8:21 pm
Yup and yup again. Come on all you concerned residents (and there are many 1000's of you/us) it's in our own hands to bring about change - wake up and smell the coffee.
Every election will count from now on in. Get the political flunkies (regardless of the colour of their rosetts) out of office ASAP.
Local, independant representation right up to county level is vital for the future otherwise the money grubbers, the unconcerned grifters will just go on shafting us ratepayers. They may claim to be public servants but they just don't rate your/our valuable support any longer - we could hardly do worse could we!
Adopt a long memory today and give local people the chance to do better - we all deserve it
Simon Worthington
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 7:47 am
For most of us illegal actions, despite any claim of ignorance of the law, result in prosecution. Councillors are not exempt from this. Do we have any solicitors prepared to work pro bono and pursue these incompetents and their advisors. There are specific laws covering acts in public office which can result in prosecution. Time to act.
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 10:36 am
Simon, I think you will find that a recent Cabinet meeting agreed that if legal action was taken against "senior executives" then the Council will pick up the legal bill - in other words us. So you see we ending up paying whatever happens.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 10:55 am
Jackie: that should be possible to prevent and I am more interested in potential prison sentences and barring from future public office. I am also interested in discovering who their legal "advisors" are. If they are outsiders employed by the council it would be difficult for the council to justify paying any defense costs they incur.
Vic Barlow
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 10:59 am
The lesson we are learning again and again is that we cannot trust the word of Cheshire East residents have to challenge every dubious decision they make.
Were it not for residents' reaction to Lyme Green and the so-called Farm Village CEC would have simply rolled over both communities.
The fact that both CEC decisions on the above were illegal would have gone unnoticed.
It appears the responsibility of Opposition rests with the public.
Manuel Golding
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 11:51 am
Vic, all your respondents to your latest are all of the same opinion, that is a woefully low view of those we misguidedly entrusted to oversee the Borough's residents well being.
Our council, that includes the political leadership, its incompetent, duplicitous or worse, officers (especially those involved in planning & highways - I can only speak from experience), the Conservative councillors who do not have the nerve or abilities to stand up for their constituents, on pain of forfeiting council positions, have collectively and deliberately ignored public concerns with planning, have tried to blatantly manipulate those concerns by exclusions, misrepresentations and ignoring genuine views. The only "facts" they are collectively concerned with are their facts, just as they've tried to deceive Handforth.
Can these people, all of them, be trusted again?
I honestly think not.
Come the next round of CEC elections, 2019, RoW will certainly be making its presence with the voters known and hopefully felt at the ballot box. The ruling majority elite have proven to the electorate that they have deliberately failed the town, the area & the borough. The time for that clear-out is approaching.
Jackie, your answer to Simon's cry just about puts the cap on it all. We pay for their (fill in your own favourite reason). Shades of Lyme Green again.
Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 1:00 pm
Simon, - it seems to me that nothing is ever put a stop to at Cheshire East, and it is clear from everything that is happening that Warrington actually pulls the strings through the Local Area Partnership.

As to "their legal advisors". They have a few "in-house" but like most local authorities virtually anything which they regard as "potentially difficult" is contracted out. They have a regular consortium firm which they use for a a great of things, but in the case of the Local Plan they "bought in" the QC from London. I suspect that they did not ask his advice on Handforth - they just thought they could get away with it.
Vic Barlow
Friday 3rd March 2017 at 3:52 pm
So with all that access to legal opion and assistance are we to believe that CEC failed to spot a clause that the residents of Handfoth were able to identify clearly?
How likely is that?
Manuel Golding
Tuesday 7th March 2017 at 11:14 am
Vic, to answer your tongue in cheek question, may I 'umbly suggest this is a classic case of the blind leading those wishing to not see.
Of course CEC & its deliberately manipulative and its 5 star incompetent planning department that once again has attempted manipulate and deliberately distort the facts.
Once again!
One thing we can be sure of, Cheshire East will continue to distort everything it is involved with until there is a total clear-out of the current leadership, sycophantic councillors and officers who excel in misleading information.