An appeal has been allowed and planning permission granted to enable a new care home to be built in Wilmslow which has been described by a local councillor as "an astonishing and very distressing decision".
Altrincham based New Care Projects LLP have won their appeal to demolish two four bedroomed houses in large plots at 51 to 53 Handforth Road and replace them with a 60 bedroom 3 storey care home.
The controversial plans were refused by the Northern Planning Committee for the second time in January 2020, after being deferred by them in December 2019.
The Planning Officer recommended the application for approval by the Northern Planning Committee, however members disagreed with his recommendation voting by 8 votes to 3 to refuse planning permission on the grounds that "the proposal would lead to the overdevelopment of the site due to its inappropriate scale, mass and bulk - detrimentally impacting the character and appearance of the area, and there are no material considerations deemed to outweigh that harm."
An earlier application for a slightly larger care home on the same site was dismissed on appeal in October 2019. The previous Inspector was concerned about the visual impact of the proposal when viewed from Handforth Road, and found that the height and width of the proposed building would cause harm to the character and appearance of the area.
This second appeal proposal also involves a single, large building but changes were made to the Handforth Road elevation following the earlier dismissal and the scheme was re-designed to appear from Handforth Road as two distinct detached dwellings with a glazed link connecting them.
Having considered the main issue of "the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area", the Planning Inspectorate concluded that "The sensitive design of the buildings together with significant landscaping would ensure that the proposed development would be able to successfully assimilate into the area. I conclude that the proposal would not cause harm to the character and appearance of the area, and would comply with the requirements of Policies SD2 and SE1 of the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy 2017 (CELPS) in relation to character, local distinctiveness and sense of place."
Following the decision CEO at New Care Chris McGoff posted on Twitter "Planning Committee should hang their head in shame today.Ignorantly refused 2listen 2Proffeaional Planning Officers who supported application. As such delayed job creation&deprived locals of healthcare facility which will help battle Covid&support."
"Gr8 result winning Appeal today, but what a waste of time & tax payer money its been.All due 2 NIMBYism,who found support from ex housing minister @EstherMcVey1 who spouted mistruths in her objection, in hope of winning a few votes. Glad she's gone."
Councillor Barry Burkhill said “This is an astonishing and very distressing decision, taken by a planning inspector after a unanimous refusal at the Northern Planning Committee of yet another application for a care home on this distinctive and sought after residential part of Handforth Ward.
“It is another kick in the teeth to residents and to those who work tirelessly to represent them to make what we believe are the correct local decisions on their behalf.
“If local unanimous decisions of this importance are to be overturned by an inspector, then there is something very seriously wrong with the planning appeals system; the first being that there is no appeal for the public against this decision. The secretary of state can intervene by calling in the decision for himself to decide and I hope that our MP will make this request.
“We cannot have well considered local democratic decisions thrown out by an inspector when that decision has such enormous ramifications for the area, for local residents and for the local health services. I hope that the secretary of state will listen to our MP and consider this decision in the light of all the evidence and particularly as the application is very little different from that dismissed previously at appeal.”
Councillor Toni Fox, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for planning, said: "The council is naturally disappointed with the decision of the planning inspector to allow this appeal.
"The inspector has taken account of the previous appeal scheme and decided that, in their view, the design changes put forward in the new proposals are sufficient to overcome the reasons for refusing planning permission.
"Given the nature of the key issues, namely the subjective matters of design and character, there is no prospect that the council would be successful if it were to challenge the judgement."