Campaigners vow to take legal action over approval of Royal London's housing plans

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Campaigners are preparing to take legal action after Royal London was granted planning permission to build around 180 new homes on former Green Belt land in Wilmslow.

The company sought outline planning permission to build 60 homes on a 4.45 hectare parcel of land located west of Alderley Road, which they own, and 120 dwellings on the northern part of their campus - between Alderley Road and the West Coast Main Line.

Both sites were released from the Green Belt in order to assist the Council in achieving a five year supply of housing and were allocated within the Local Plan for residential use. The Royal London campus site is also allocated for the provision of 5 ha of employment land and a hotel.

Nine members of the Strategic Planning Board voted in favour of the first application for land west of Alderley Road at their meeting on Wednesday, 28th March, whilst two voted against (independent councillors Toni Fox and Barry Burkhill) and one abstained.

Manuel Golding of Residents of Wilmslow (RoW) said "All arguments against the application were widely ignored, including the high number of builds and planning approvals that RoW submitted. We are bang up to date which CEC's planners are not. In fact we supply them our figures."

The campaign group are now preparing to take legal action over a Restrictive Covenant which they believe prevents development from taking place on the field west of Alderley Road.

Manuel added "My parting shot to the committee was, if they vote for the application they will be wasting their time as they can be assured that there will be no development. Our counsel is preparing injunctions. It will be up to the Higher Tribunal (land court) to decide. But the councillors were not interested, except for the two voting against."

He continued "Royal London is not interested or concerned about the covenants, I feel it believes it can simply swat these aside. So the fight must move to the next stage via the courts."

The Strategic Planning Board voted 8 for and 4 against the second application for 120 new homes on their Alderley Road campus.

Councillor Toni Fox said "Cheshire East Council forecasted a requirement for an 900 additional houses in Wilmslow during the period of the recently approved Local Plan - 2010 to 2030. To date 1185 new houses have planning permission in Wilmslow.

"Despite pointing this out to members of the Strategic Planning Board the Conservative majority of members of the Committee approved both outline planning applications for a total of up to 180 new houses.

"Whilst S106 contributions to Education and Health provision will be secured, as with other recently approved developments in Wilmslow, there are no timescales for the increase of provision that will be required.

"Local residents I believe have just reason to be profoundly angry and upset with both the Council and Royal London that the site was removed from the Green Belt under the thinly disguised threat that the Company was looking for alternative premises.

"Not only is Royal London leaving the site but it will do so with a far healthier profit than it would have.

"As is now being demonstrated residents and those responsible for providing public services will be left with the fall out from a very short sighted decision by the Council where residents opinion was clearly ignored."

Manuel Golding added "Hardly anyone picked up on Royal London's strategy of applying for "outline" planning permission. In effect this would be a blank cheque for Royal London. The value of its sites will have increased by millions yesterday when it comes to selling them to developers.

"There was no development need for "outline", it is a simple value enhancing ploy but our councillors are either economically inept or.... - the committee should have refused with the proviso to come back with real plans. But Royal London wishes to sell the site and for a buyer to submit its own plans.

"All in all, local democracy once again lost out yesterday."

Wilmslow Town Council's Planning Committee recommended refusal of both planning applications.

Representations were also received from 86 properties in relation to the site west of Alderley Road and 72 in regard of the Royal London campus plans.

The main points of objections were about the impact of the proposal on highway safety and an increase in traffic in an already congested area; too many access points along Alderley Road; loss of an open field, loss of trees and hedgerows, increased risk of flooding and lack of capacity in local schools, doctors and dental practices.

In support of the proposals people welcomed the provision of affordable housing within the development and the increase in footpath and cycle routes and felt that the local housing market is too constrained.

Tags:
Planning Applications, Royal London, Strategic Planning Board
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Comments

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

Richard Slater
Thursday 29th March 2018 at 2:48 pm
Is it good practice for the developers agent, to be asking facts & figures from CEC planning officers to help him answer points being raised by the Strategic Planning Committee?

If the agent doesn't know the answers, defer the application!
Nick Jones
Thursday 29th March 2018 at 3:51 pm
Who was it that said "I have worked closely with the town council over the years to counter threats to the local Green Belt – something I will continue to do." "I am on record as supporting building on brownfield sites before green areas and on allowing offices to be converted to housing. I have publicly opposed any housing on the Royal London site…” and armed with this … [ being qualified in planning matters whilst asleep on his watch at the costly Lyme Green debacle] then voted with his lemming associates without any explanation to remove this site [and others] from greenbelt protection in the first instance ?? … Remember this when these same lemmings seek re-election !!. Their continued silence perfectly expresses their continued contempt.
Terry Roeves
Friday 30th March 2018 at 8:41 am
“S106 provisions for education and health will be secured.” Yes and the money will go to CEC, with nothing for WTC. Furthermore, from the previous history, where there are huge underspends by CEC, Wilmslow will not benefit one iota.

It never fails to shock me how blatant this has been. And we must thank our Independent Cllrs for exposing this over several years, along with other issues of direct concern to voters in Cheshire East.

Royal London, with no doubt a large legal department will defend their position vigorously. After all, ultimately at our cost, the profits are huge.

Finally, with other sites owned by developers in the pipeline and windfalls, Wilmslow housing will increase well beyond the already bloated number of 1185, seemingly without any new infrastructure or services.

Roll on May, voters.
Chris Neill
Friday 30th March 2018 at 9:57 am
Thankyou Mr Golding and RoW for fighting CEC and Royal London, who clearly couldn't care less about the residents or quality of our overdeveloped town. Greed lurches through above all social, moral and legal responsibility of all those involved in this shameless poaching of land.
I am sure thousands of the towns residents wish RoW every success in defeating these bullys and protecting Wilmslow.
Oliver Romain
Friday 30th March 2018 at 2:09 pm
Does anybody know the wording or nature of the covenant?
Rod Menlove
Friday 30th March 2018 at 2:57 pm
On both applications, three people spoke against including myself as the Ward councillor and answered questions from the members of the committee. The time alloted was five minutes to me and three minutes to each of the other two speakers.
For the land to the west of Alderley Road I emphasised that the report did not address the relevant saved planning policies in the 'Three Wilmslow Parks Supplementary Planning Guidance' and that deferral would allow a future report to do so.
For the land to the east I itemised three separate sections in the report that were inadequate. The main emphasis was on highway safety compromised by a new road and new centre lane and therefore traffic crossing too close to the recognised congestion around the two bus stops and the Fulshaw Cross roundabout. My solution was to reject this new road proposal and use the existing traffic light controlled road to the south as in the original Royal London Masterplan and the Local Plan. Again I called for a deferral so that deficiencies could be addressed in a future report.
The committee considered these applications for two and threequarter hours and it is very disappointing that they voted to approve. The full recording will be on-line shortly.
There will be following applications for the Reserved Matters and I will submit a call-in request so that they are considered by a committee rather than a single planning officer.
Manuel Golding
Friday 30th March 2018 at 4:46 pm
In response to Mr Romain, the restrictive covenants date from the late 1840s and assigned to numerous parcels of land within FP, they are written clearly stating the original recipients and all subsequent owners of the properties will have these covenants, passed through the past 160 years from owner to owner. In fact the most recent house purchase in the Park was in November 2017 and guess what? With the deeds came the restrictive covenant. Covenants are also mentioned in the Wilmslow Three Parks policy.

The most disturbing aspect is the underhand way Royal London has acted in this matter. In the 50s ICI acquired these two fields, later Refuge bought them & eventually Royal London purchased them. A former ICI chairman has confirmed that "there are covenants" to protect any development here. The Refuge also knew. Neither attempted to sneak through a scheme, they honoured the covenants.

I find it incredibly difficult to accept that the Royal London hierarchy & senior minions were unaware of these covenants. I firmly are of the opinion they chose to stay very quiet and chance their arm - 'the locals will not know or be aware etc'. I also find it difficult to believe Royal London's adviser,HOW Planning, would similarly not have be aware. If it didn't do its research then it has acted in a woefully unprofessional manner.

Now RL has been caught with its fingers in the till, they are making all sorts of misinterpretations, excuses,reasons and more for developing the field.

At Wednesday's SPB,the HOW agent made a a statement to the effect that Royal London had been in contact with numerous covenant holders. The truth is the company didn't communicate with anyone until it received letters/emails informing it the covenants are very real and relevant. Its response was the usual stuff about the writers were wrong, the covenants are out dated, a 1920s Act nullified them etc etc. Many covenant holders have this week said they have heard nothing from the company.

All this misinformation tactic cannot excuse the company's "wing it" strategy. If only it had come clean sometime ago to openly talk to the holders it may have been possible to come to an arrangement. The company has said in its accounts that it takes great store by its "community" responsibilities. Yes I bet it does! Now caught out it will try to bully tactic.
I will leave readers to put their very own adjectives & interpretation of the sort of company and its ethics is.

A top specialist legal team has been instructed and Counsel is preparing a Injunction to be served on Royal London.

This exercise shows the value of RoWs independent councillor, Toni Fox, & Handforth's independent Barry Burkhill who have fought to defend the unwarranted mega profit grab by the company to the detriment of the community it so glibly states it is concerned for. The whole planning process play we witnessed on Wednesday is a damning blot on the phrase "democratic process".

That's all for now folks!
Pete Taylor
Friday 30th March 2018 at 10:36 pm
Cllr. Menlove, do you now regret your decision to vote against the amendment (and with your Party, rather than your electorate) when you were handed on a plate the possibility of keeping this green gateway to Wilmslow in the Green Belt?
Oliver Romain
Saturday 31st March 2018 at 7:34 am
Society needs more houses. They can’t always be next door to somebody else.
Nick Jones
Saturday 31st March 2018 at 12:59 pm
@ Pete Taylor;
I Think there is some “CONVENIENT AMNESIA” occurring here, The Lyme Green cllr on a recent thread on this site [https://bit.ly/2IiLT3q] stated “The Lyme Green project …. was a democratic decision on an officer led project and after an internal investigation, the senior officers involved left CEC. The above is in the public domain on matters occurring 5 or so years ago.” In the interest of clarity, I reiterate that this costly unacceptable and concealed conduct investigation is NOT in the public domain it, alongside cost and individual responsibility remains hidden. Only an open approach and revelation of facts and the report to the public will allow the electorate to then make their own informed judgement, not that now provided via LGM Spin doctors. We then have the issue of "I have worked closely with the town council over the years to counter threats to the local Green Belt – something I will continue to do." "I am on record as supporting building on brownfield sites before green areas and on allowing offices to be converted to housing. I have publicly opposed any housing on the Royal London site…” On 28//2/14 At Crewe Alex FC a special full council meeting The Lyme Green Cllr, followed the party whip and failed to vote against removing identified land including R/L from Green Belt protection. [The exception being Cllr Fitzgerald ], In the interest of further amnesia, Heres the record of the meeting [https://bit.ly/2vS90jI]
Then on 27/7/17 at a full council meeting at Sandbach Town Hall, to again help the convenient amnesia, The Lyme Green Cllr with the W4 voted in the flawed CEC Cons Local Plan,[not residents plan] that ignored brownfield development, failed 1st time buyers and importantly failed to demonstrate once more that they had listened and comprehended what the electorate had said in the ignored consultation process and failed to represent their views. Only Cllr Toni Fox voted against this flawed L/P.
Residents support was for development ,but not in the reckless manner imposed.
As Sir Humphrey said “A Good speech isn’t one where we can tell he’s telling the truth, its one in which no one else can prove he’s lying”
Manuel Golding
Saturday 31st March 2018 at 7:11 pm
The other numbing element of Wednesday's SPB re both Royal London's fields travesty below.

The ward councillor, Menlove, the chairman of Wilmslow Town Council, Martin Watkins and RoW all referred to the Wlm 3 Parks document which was adopted as a part of the LPS in July last. The planning officer, Foster, stated his opinion this policy should be ignored, HOW Planning's Halman representing RL, took the same line.

In addition RoW gave the committee up to date build count, including planning permissions, as 1185, as against a council desire for 900 homes in Wlm (RoWs count is more accurate & up to date than CECs). A lady supporter of the plan asked for "affordable" homes on the west field, which Halman greedily endorsed. The stark truth is that "affordable" homes can easily be & should be built within the existing developments. With the over needed numbers already achieved this was a cheap, worthless input, bearing no relevance to reality. The loss of the 175 homes at RL will still mean Wlm is way ahead of the target 900, so no loss.

We then heard the planning officer, Halman & the chairman constantly stating Wlm "needs these houses", as if they are working for the Ministry of Propaganda - tell a lie often enough it will become "the truth".

Do we need ever more house builds around here? Do we need some "affordable" homes around here? The answer is No and Yes on sites with planning but builders do not like such builds as they cut into their margins. The housing numbers comes down to the falsification of "population growth" in Cheshire East alongside the accompanying myth. Based on government figures, we do not need the numbers constantly bawled out by the vested The other nuinterests - land owners & agents, developers & the council who see greater tax revenues. Where are these dwellers coming from?

Again, evidence was given that Royal London had stated, probably in cahoots with CE, it would up-sticks & move away should it not receive planning for both fields. RoW suggested, when Astra Zenica announced its move away from Alderley Park, in fact that very week, that site would be ideal for RL, thus freeing the threat to that element of green built under its stewardship.We were told RL was not interested. The truth appears to be that CE had from the very first been talking to RL about the move whilst continuing to deceive Wilmslow's residents. RLs move means they will look for a buyer who will no doubt desire to build ever more homes, hotels, retail premises, pubs et al, as the outline permission has now been given.

Wednesday's deaf eared, naive, & in some cases politically motivated planning approvals added millions, many millions, to the values of the two sites. SA very good, profitable day for all those advocating this result. No doubt many bottles of champers were opened by the company's fund managers & directors. Wilmslow's residents will just have to live with the ever decreasing life style the greedy, uncaring will leave behind.

To summarise, we presented on the Wlm 3 Parks, house build numbers & the deception over the move by RL to Alderley Park.

One SPB councillor will always vote against Wlm, indeed all developments in the old Macc BC area, on the basis that his southern area has had so much development, so its the north's turn. He has never assessed the pros & cons, is always prior resolved to vote the way he does. The majority of members ignored the 3 Parks, the over build house numbers,
the RL threats etc. The planning officer, who has advised & worked with the applicants over a period, to enable the result required - if only those same planners were as cooperative & forthcoming with residents.

Very few members have truly open minds, they talk a lot to cover their predetermined prejudices, they do not listen to the evidence presented, they allow threats such as RLs & do not question such, to determine their votes.

Such committees make a mockery of the phrase "open democracy". It is far from democratic. We need to ensure drastic changes & RoW will be exploring this concern as a matter of urgent need.

The SPB also pointed the urgent need for even more independent councillors on CE council - RoW has Toni Fox Dean Row), Barry Burkhill & Dennis Mahon in Handforth, Craig Brown at Alderley. They need your support. We hope to have many more RoW candidates & independents elsewhere in the borough - your opportunity for more independents will come in the next CEC elections in May 2019
Pete Taylor
Saturday 31st March 2018 at 11:28 pm
One of the things which struck me as slightly unusual was the wording and style of some of the flurry of “supporting” comments posted on the CEC Planning website after the closing date. This seemed to coincide with a Facebook advertising campaign for affordable housing in Wilmslow conducted by Royal London Asset Management.
I wrote to the members of the SPB pointing this out (no responses). It was almost as if a class of individuals with learning difficulties had been tasked with an exercise of requesting affordable homes. Several of these hand-written letters were not signed, gave no postal address, or were from outside of the local area. Look them up, they are on the CEC Planning website.
Tony Haluradivth
Tuesday 3rd April 2018 at 10:09 am
Oliver Romain affordable housing YES but not more luxury "Executive Homes" making millions for greedy developers And Brownfield sites NOT greenbelt. It is sheer vandalism and when infrastructure is not improved and schools not increased and new medical centres built and staffed then it is a recipie for disaster and any sensible person knows that. Words are cheap and saying "build more houses" without proper joined up planning is foolish and pointless. Look at the amount of "Mc Mansions" being built in Alderley Edge for example. (Yes I know footballers need houses and 10 car garages) but all the section 106 monies paid over the years sink without trace in CEC's coffers and not one penny goes into renewing roads , pavements and verges destroyed by the HGV's and plant machinery of the aforementioned developers.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 3rd April 2018 at 1:26 pm
I think it was WTC Cllr Mark Goldsmith who previously explained on these pages that the ‘formal planning definition’ of affordable houses equates to Less than 20% of average value. Not property generally within the first time buyers reach. So with high average prices in Wilmslow, this will merely be a 20% less expensive property; i.e. A £560k property instead of £700k.
Ade Whitaker
Tuesday 3rd April 2018 at 3:53 pm
Unfortunately I can't see anything changing in terms of the delivery of genuinely affordable housing that local residents need. The strings are all pulled by the developers who only care about profit. I'm wondering whether some of them are starting to catch a cold though. The huge retirement village on the King's Arms roundabout doesn't seem to be selling. Whenever I've been walking the dog at night during the winter months there only seems to be one or two units with their lights on. I wonder whether a development of small, one bedroom flats would have made life easier for first time buyers.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 3rd April 2018 at 8:33 pm
@Ade, that Soviet Blok seems to be something of a duck-egg in terms of completed sales. During the day there about ten cars, half of which (at least) are staff and, as you say, at night hardly any lights, apart from the communal areas.
Given the eye-watering service charges and Londonian purchase prices it’s tempting to say we told them so, but actually some of us did!
Well-done to CEC Planning; another white elephant delivered plus a loss of public and Health Centre parking spaces.
Barry Stafford
Wednesday 4th April 2018 at 5:47 pm
Ade, there will be 120 expensive flats in the Chapel Lane/Bethel Lane/Holly rd.These start at £300,000 for 1 bed ,some are £420,000 .12 on Chapel lane £500,000+ You are right with the Russian block,only about 8 have blinds/curtains up. Management charges on all these new flats are mouthwatering.and are not fixed. More are to go up on the old Dentists site on Alderley road..This is more cars,traffic onto Alderley Rd.the Health centre is already swamped,and appointments a lottery.These flats are aimed at mature wealthy pensioners,who downsize.But a huge problem for the local Doctors/Dentists and Care services. Baz
David Smith
Wednesday 4th April 2018 at 9:12 pm
There is so much 'wrong' with the approach to house building in the UK. Here's an interesting aspect that was featured in the 'You And Yours' programme on Radio 4, today the 4th April 2018 at 1215hrs. The short clip lasting about 4 minutes on UK housing is 18 minutes into the programme and can be heard directly at the following link:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcshj
I have previously raised the issue of houses being built, ostensibly to alleviate the housing 'shortage' here in the UK to provide housing for 'our children', but as long as any national of the European Union can walk into an estate agent and buy as many houses as they wish we will never be able to provide homes for our loved ones who were born here. This issue is further compounded by rich nationals from countries OUTSIDE of the EU somehow also being allowed to buy properties! This is the main thrust of the programme and something that needs to be addressed. As the programme says - it used to be a problem in London alone but is now spreading nationwide and hence there is nothing to stop any of the houses controversially being built in our community going to foreigners.
Have a listen to the programme and the relevant 4 minutes - then contemplate for much longer!
Regards, D. Smith.
Oliver Romain
Saturday 7th April 2018 at 8:22 am
David let’s get this straight you want to control who we sell our homes to and stop people from selling to non British people. Perhaps the supermarkets could do the same? Papers please!
David Smith
Sunday 8th April 2018 at 11:35 am
Thanks Oliver, for your comment. I've read it several times and can't for the life of me understand exactly what you are saying. Supermarkets don't sell houses and where do newspapers fit with my observation?
Try again and construct your sentences with more detail as to what you are trying to say. You know, but others who read your words need a careful guidance through your vocabulary to end up with the same understanding.
Your reply could include some indication of the substance of the YOU AND YOURS programme on which I made my observations.
Thanks, Dave.
Pete Taylor
Sunday 8th April 2018 at 12:25 pm
Oliver, presumably you didn’t take the trouble to listen to the linked podcast? I suggest that you would find it interesting.
Speculative foreign investments in UK housing stock has caused a 19% average rise in selling prices, making it more difficult to get on the housing ladder.
Oliver Romain
Monday 9th April 2018 at 12:08 am
"Your papers, please" (or "Papers, please") is an expression or trope associated with police state functionaries, as popularized in Hollywood movies featuring Nazi Party officials demanding identification from citizens during random stops or at checkpoints. It is a cultural metaphor for life in a police state.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Your_papers,_please

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