Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) has submitted its criticisms of the Cheshire East Local Plan for consideration by the Planning Inspector.
The main concerns raised by SMBC relate to the Green Belt, Infrastructure and the consultation and engagement carried out in the development of the strategy.
SMBC feel the need to release land from the Green Belt to meet future development needs has not been adequately demonstrated because a targeted exercise has not taken place to establish whether owners of land outside of the Green Belt would be interested in developing it and, therefore, no work has been undertaken to establish whether development of any such land might be deliverable.
Instead SMBC state that the need to release land from the Green Belt is based on an assessment of the development capacity of already identified sites, including those within CEC‟s ownership and those which CEC had already determined should be taken forward for development.
Stockport Council claims the Green Belt Assessment document, published in September 2013, was produced to justify the already proposed release of land from the Green Belt, including that at Handforth East, and provide a critical piece of evidence for the overall strategy. They say it should have been undertaken earlier in the plan process to inform the strategy and should have been subject to consultation, at least with key stakeholders, prior to its application.
Additionally SMBC feel the Strategy proposes the release of land that would have the greatest detrimental impact on the purpose of the Green Belt, rather than that which is most remote from the conurbations, and that there is no justification for any of the proposed areas of Safeguarded Land.
SMBC also raises concern about CEC's commitment to deliver 500 homes during the plan period for High Peak Borough. Given that CEC cannot meet their own housing needs without releasing land from the Green Belt they question how CEC can justify accepting additional development on behalf of a neighbouring district.
In its representations SMBC raises a number of concerns about the impact on the A34 corridor, saying that the mitigatory measures required to overcome these impacts are likely to be substantial, far-reaching and require significant investment in highways infrastructure within Stockport, particularly at junctions on the A34 going northwards through Stockport towards Manchester.
SMBC also point out that whilst the A6-MARR scheme now has planning permission, it has been designed to relieve existing congested areas, not to create additional capacity which would accommodate additional development. They also state that the reliance upon sustainable modes of transport, whilst laudable is not evidenced to be deliverable.
The third main concern for SMBC is the area of consultation and engagement. They question whether Cheshire East Council has given adequate consideration to the principal concerns raised by Stockport during the plan preparation period and whether reference should explicitly be made to the agreement that CEC will make best endeavours to assist in bringing forward appropriate land to help meet Stockport‟s Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Show people needs.
Cheshire East Council approved the Local Plan Strategy Submission Version at a special meeting on February 28th 2014. The Strategy was subsequently published on 14th March for a six week period during which representations could be made on its soundness and legal compliance before it goes to Secretary of State. The deadline for submitting comments was 5pm on Friday 25th April.
Click here to read Stockport Borough Council's submission to the Planning Inspector about Cheshire East's Local Plan Strategy Submission Version.