Barlow's Beef: Build it and they might (not) come


Can someone help me out please?

Over the past few years I have sold three houses one I owned the others on behalf of elderly relatives.

Each one took over 18 months to sell and one sold well below its purchase price two years previous.

Okay, three house sales is not a valid reflection of the market but many of the properties for sale took a similar time to sell.

So why do we need so many additional new homes (now 36,000)? This latest figure is up 7,000 due to Cheshire East's economic growth forecast now revised to 0.7% from 0.4%.

Clearly this 'growth' has yet to take effect on the current housing market, which appears relatively static judging by the plethora of For Sale signs scattered across the borough.

So, who decided our economic growth will increase 75% (from 0.4% to 0.7%)? He or she must be an economic wizard or the figures are simply being massaged to match the number of houses planned.

Note the word 'planned' as developers aren't stupid enough to build houses and flood the market. They will simply 'bank' the land and force up house prices until they are guaranteed a substantial profit.

I'm assuming the same planners and politicians who predicted the 0.4% growth are now forecasting the 0.7%. Why should they be correct this time if they got it wrong at the previous attempt?

Here's something else I don't understand. I was initially told by Cheshire East there was a growing demand for single person homes but when virtually none of these appeared on any development plan it was changed to 'affordable' homes.

I think we all agree such homes are desperately needed by lower income families and first time buyers but whenever I see a development in progress it rarely has anything remotely 'affordable.' (See picture I took today at a local development)

So, as far as I can see, we are destroying our open spaces for the development of houses, which definitely are not affordable, based on speculative growth figures, which are bobbing around like lottery balls.

There doesn't appear to be any specific funding or detailed plan for the infra structure required by such an ambitious building program meanwhile those in desperate need of cheaper housing will benefit not one iota.

If you can follow the logic in this Build it and They Will Come policy please explain it to me. I'm struggling to see any advantage to anyone other than land speculators and developers.

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.

Manuel Golding
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 11:58 am
Once again Vic, you've said all there is to say about the government's "economic growth" plans, all reliant on house building to meet the so called demand.
Where is that demand around Cheshire East?
It is predicated on the mystical "growth" strategy, yes now upped to 0.7% from 0.4%. How has this increased figure been arrived at? Who arrived at it? Why? The latter is easy, it is to give the cover from destroying our green fields & green belt. The other two, well Cheshire East is unable, will not, give solid answers.
We are therefore left with your conclusion - it is all a figment of great imagination to suit a mythical "growth" concept.
Where indeed are the so called low cost homes? Only expensive houses are being currently built at Adlington Road, the low cost, sorry affordable homes are way down the pipeline. Yet, we are told the country needs affordable homes, not high priced ones.
Speaking to a Wilmslow business man this morning, he asked where is this growth coming from to commercially justify building all these new homes when his son, earning a very good income, can not get a mortgage; he later offered to stand as guarantor - still the lender said No.
Currently the CE housing market will not change any time soon. Why, therefore, this lemming like, kamikaze rush for so many more homes and why on " pepper potted" green belt land parcels? Why is our council leadership so hell bent on destroying the green belt, so intent on playing "scratch your back" with developers? These questions need answering - now!
We have adequate brown fields crying out for redevelopment that will satisfy local demand for low cost accommodation.
RoW will be seeking an urgent meeting with both the leadership and planners to convey our concerns.
Thanks Vic for your common sense & for conveying the reality that the emperor is indeed very naked!
David Lewis
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 1:10 pm
It seems by no means certain that the Inspector has bought into the higher housing numbers for Cheshire East. This is what he said recently in an e-mail to the Council which can be found in the Examination Library:

PS A031 The Inspector’s email response to the Council’s Possible Timeline
for Examination Resumption
Sent: 01 June 2015 14:27
Subject: RE: Cheshire East Possible Timeline for Examination Resumption
The Inspector has noted the Council’s suggested timeframe for the resumption
of the examination. He notes that the Council suggests public consultation on
draft sites, followed by resumption of the examination to deal with the amended
overall housing and employment land provision and later the resumption of the
examination to deal with specific sites. However, it may be more appropriate to
resume the hearings to deal with the objective assessment of housing need
(including any cross-boundary implications), employment requirements, Green
Belt assessment, spatial distribution and site assessment before consulting on
new and amended strategic site allocations.
Furthermore, in his recent communication to the Council , the Inspector drew
attention to the need to avoid substantial changes to the submitted plan and
significant alterations to the underlying strategy. Consultation on a significantly
amended overall housing and employment land provision figure, along with a set
of new and/or amended sites, may constitute the type of substantial
amendments to the submitted plan, which might suggest that the submitted
plan should be withdrawn and resubmitted when all the necessary community
engagement and public consultation has been completed. Apart from the
stakeholder engagement workshops, he is not aware of the nature of any other
engagement and consultation with the community and other stakeholders before
drawing up the amended strategy, including specific new and amended sites and
assessment of alternative sites. Until the Inspector sees and considers the
nature and scope of the amendments to the plan, he cannot commit to a
timetable for resuming the examination.
In terms of availability, at present, the Inspector is available on 7-9 October
2015, 21-23 October 2015, 26 October-13 November 2015 and 7-18 December
2015, but is not available on most other dates (including 6 October and 24
November-4 December 2015).
Stephen J Pratt – Development Plan Inspector

So just what happens next remains to be seen. The hearing for the Local Plan cannot now resume before October at the earliest and it seems rather premature for some of our Councillors to be going into print in local papers and saying that some greenbelt sites around Wilmslow will have to be built on.
Terry Roeves
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 3:17 pm
Reading the final draft of Economic, Employment and Stategic Housing dated May 19th for the CEC planning workshop, one is struck by the use of GVA, gross value added, within the Borough. The ONS have three definitions, with significantly different algorithms and I have asked Adrian Fisher, Head of Planning, to clarify this.
The north south divide in the borough is well explained and the differing impact on areas, of Manchester growth, HS2, the Airport, Airport City, Cheshire Warrington TEP, Omega, the Atlantic Gateway and the Science Corridor. It's only the latter that directly impacts on Wilmslow. The other are mostly to be dealt with by other boroughs or Crewe.
However, science based businesses In Wilmslow, can be counted on one hand. There are less than 10 currently advertised vacancies, yet hundreds of "£7.00/hour" unskilled jobs.
The report accepts that there will be no net pharma gains at Alderley Park. How many of us know a Radio Physicist or an Astronomer, for they are part of our economic growth? But that's Jodrell Bank and also the Square Kilometre Array headquartered there. It's not here.
So Wilmslow and Handforth with 250,000 sq ft of empty office space plus land is ready for businesses to move in, that want to be near Manchester. It has been for years with few takers. That's how we get our GVA figure.
Engineers and Scientists primarily want Lab space not office space. Don't hold your breath folks that it's organic economic growth thanks to our Science Corridor location.
A great deal can happen in 20 years, but banking, insurance and services being cited as our saviours to occupy these offices, is not going to happen, unless there are major relocations from the south east, or Scotland. Just look at the job reductions that have happened and continue apace right across these sectors. I.T. will continue to drive down head counts and increase profit per emplpyee.
All of us in Wilmslow and Handforth need to help our economy grow. We can't expect CEC to do it. They cannot. BUT CEC can't just dish out our green fields to developers to build houses for commuters to other Boroughs, for that is what the report wants to happen. AND one Office for National Statistics, Gross Value Added calculation, does include householder income generated outside the borough. The plot thickens!
Thankyou Vic for drawing our attention to this most serious matter.
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 3:26 pm
Currently in wilmslow 79 houses advertised for sale in the price range £500000 - 1 million, - excluding the houses advertised at Adlington Rd development called "Bollin Park". Two new builds in this price range elsewhere in Wilmslow, still on the market after a number of months and despite being on the market in the peak selling time. Some home owners now advertising that they will consider a "house swap" - which is another indication of a stagnant market. So, all in all, the evidence for more "demand" in Wilmslow is shaky at best. People can now buy a newbuild at Cheadle with its better road links and cheaper, or at Woodford on a purpose built estate complete with built in parkland with easy access to two High schools in Bramhall and Cheadle Hulme. It is easy to see why the Woodford Development by Redrow was specifically excluded for consideration in the Cheshire East Green Belt Review despite the fact that other developments in neighbouring authorities were included.
Ryan Dance
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 5:03 pm
Fabulous - i see our contributors are able to regurgitate content from the anti development tribe. Well done.

Start lobbying car producers......and every other industry who produce in excess. The free market should prevail.
Terry Roeves
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 5:23 pm
The Free Market won't prevail Ryan, whilst CEC Cabinet want to exclude our Councillors and the general public from having inputs to the amended local plan.
CEC own land, they want to sell it at a profit. That isn't a Free Market. Councils are heavily biassed and distort the Market.
It's disgraceful Ryan. Wether we agree or disagree doesn't matter.
Contact your Cllr and make sure that your voice is heard. Currently it won't be. And if you want to comment on excess, then tell your Cllr about the wasted brown field sites that will be left alone, in favour of our green fields.
Poynton tip recycle 79% That's wonderful. Oh, wish that were true for our brown fields.
David Lewis
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 9:07 pm
The Library now contains a letter from the Inspector dated 16th May but only posted today raising questions about CE's provision for Gipsies and Traveller sites in the light of a decision by another Inspector to find the Maldon and District Local Plan unsound in respect of its provision for Gipsies and Travellers. CE posted a response on 11th June. Is this yet another hurdle for CE to overcome?
Jack Pink
Tuesday 16th June 2015 at 9:33 pm
Actually the 0.7% growth is pretty poor when compared with previous years. CEC has consistently performed better than that and independent economic studies show a higher level of future growth. CEC want to show a lower level as it suppresses growth. Where are all these brownfield sites in Wilmslow? If they were available they would have been developed by now
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 9:36 am
David, there are so many questions left unanswered in the proposed Local Plan - not least where all the children from proposed developments will go to school. The Guardian carrying an article today about the squeeze on secondary school places being worse now than primary. Wilmslow High cannot simply go on expanding. It is already the largest in Cheshire East. As to Traveller sites, wasn't Cheshire East in discussion with Stockport over this? - that all seems to have gone quiet, no doubt to reemerge.

Jack - the brownfield sites were all collated by Residents of Wilmslow. How many of these have been built on the time it has taken Cheshire East to make a plan is the key question. In other words what is the total number of houses now either built in Wilmslow or with planning permission. It is hard to find out since the figures that Cheshire East have produced since 2012 are not transparent and, in some instance, contradicatory.
Birgitta Hoffmann
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 11:59 am
Yes the Housing market is stagnant, but doing a bit of asking around by estate agent, I find that that is only half the story. Apparently there is quite a demand for affordable homes, homes for single and much under discussed - homes suitable for the over 50/60s.
When asked what this consists of I was told: smaller houses (two bedrooms and a largish storeroom, very small bedroom), kitchen with dining area and living room. Not snazzy, easy to keep clean, all on one floor and with a garden. (sound familiar, I have loads of friends dreaming of this sort of thing, now that the young ones have flown the nest). They are NOT sheltered housing, and should not look like that. Has anybody seen any houses like that in a housing plan or for sale? They are like gold dust, it seems (esp. in a quiet neigbourhood). At the same time, we get told that they are their prospective residents are the group with the highest disposable income in the country (after the super-rich I suppose). So how comes we are thinking of higher growths and thus more houses, but what is proposed to be built is more of the bit that are hard to sell and are missing the market?
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 2:39 pm
Well Ryan yet again you seem to campaign for the whole area to be concreted over. Why do you live here when you could easily move to somewhere already built over completely. I, and virually every other resident of Wilmslow/Alderley/Handforth (although Handforth was vitually destroyed in the fifties, sixties and seventies) moved here so we could live in a pleasant village atmosphere close to green fields and country side. When we all clear off to a new leafy village and the demand for the over priced "cookie cutter" houses evaporates "Welcome to the ghost town" or rather domitory town.
Ryan Dance
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 3:09 pm
Simon - I live here because I enjoy all that the golden triangle has to offer. It's a wonderful place for my growing family.

I do not advocate concreting over the whole area. This is a wildly inaccurate statement. I have seen enough of the anti development rhetoric the extent they were complaining about possible development on unused land at handforth dean for fear of traffic jam.

I advocate a pro, positive, practical, progressive & forward thinking ideology towards planning and development many other areas of great concern and interest.

Barlows Beef article above is very typical of the clap trap published on, it's poorly researched, one sided and designed to stoke up emotional reaction and open the flood gates to the vociferous anti development crew.

I state my case again - developers build to make a profit (so what), they build to satisfy supply and demand (shareholders, pension funds, the city et al) demand this. The lack of development across brownfield sites is nothing to do with the ridiculous conspiracy theories propelled by contributors on here.....its simple economics......mainly driven by consumer buying behaviour.

The consumer is king ? right? don't producers produce what people what (providing the profit equation works). The absurd & ridiculous planning polices have their part to play in making some development unviable.

Do you want to live in a 1 bed flat, built on contaminated land, sandwiched between active industrial units? I think the choice is clear.
Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 3:14 pm
The company I work for in Oldham is growing, so does Oldham need to build more houses for me and my new colleagues to live in?

Err, no, because we all commute there.

The same is true with CE - if our economy grows, most people will commute to work. It is frankly a massively tenuous reason to concrete over Wilmslow's green belt.
Jack Pink
Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 9:10 pm
Why move to a town when you want to live in a village? I live in Wilmslow and I'm all for well planned growth. That means building on the green belt as despite what RoW say, there is not enough brownfield land for 800+ houses in Wilmslow. If there was, they would have been built by now.
Manuel Golding
Thursday 18th June 2015 at 6:58 am
Jack Pink, you are making fundamental & incorrect assumptions.
Vic Barlow
Thursday 18th June 2015 at 7:58 am
What worries me is that politicians in the 1960's believed that high-rise tower blocks were the answer to our housing problems and inflicted that dogma on communities throughout the UK.
Twenty years later they were knocking them down as fast as they erected them.
It was a huge blunder.
Fast forward to 2015 and they are doing it again. They were wrong last time how do we know they won't be again except this time we won't be able to correct their mistakes?
Their decision to sell off council properties clearly created a huge need for affordable housing but that is not what is happening.
Alan Brough
Thursday 18th June 2015 at 8:18 am
Part of the "contract" that you bought-into when choosing a place to live was consideration of the fact that greenbelt land cannot be built on, this forms a substantial part of the amenity and value (financial and spiritual) of your property and the area in which you live.

If CE (or anyone else) break that "contract" why would we trust them over any other future issue?

Putting the greenbelt issue aside, it ought to be impossible to build new houses in an area until it can be demonstrated that the road network, parking, health and public service provision are in place to "service" the additional need.
Thursday 18th June 2015 at 10:38 am
What is interesting in this debate is the different standards and criteria for brownfield land which is operating across Cheshire East. For example, the old Council Offices in Congleton are no longer needed. A large brownfield site in the town itself which would be ideal for conversion to either affordable housing or housing for older people. What is Cheshire East doing? It has decided to pull down the entire building and grass it over. In wilmslow, the old Council offices immediately sold off for flats despite the fact that the health centre desperatly needs more parking. It all comes down to where Cheshire East believes it can make the most money.
David Lewis
Thursday 18th June 2015 at 12:06 pm
Just seen that the CPRE have delivered their 'Charter to Save the Countryside' with nearly 90,000 signatures to the Prime Minister.
Oliver Romain
Saturday 20th June 2015 at 8:22 am
Ryan has made some sensible and pragmatic points and should not be trolled.
Greenbelt policy was bought in nearly 100 years ago, before car ownership was widespread, and needs urgent review. The countries housing shortage would be solved with just 4 per cent of green belt reassigned to housing land. We can look at, but not use, the vat majority of greenbelt and frankly there is more wildlife in most gardens than farmers fields.
We need a well mannered debate about sensible solutions to the countries housing shortage and every town should play it's part. Simply expecting other areas to deal with the problem may help protect precious views from campaigners windows but will never work.
Vic Barlow
Saturday 20th June 2015 at 1:14 pm
A 'finite' source is just that.
At some stage we shall exhaust the availability of open land.
What then?
Oliver Romain
Sunday 21st June 2015 at 8:15 am
Just because there is a finite source does not mean there is a shortage. What is lacking is the political will do deal with the inherent problem of the lack of planning consents and the fact that green belt is an outdated concept.
Ryan Dance
Sunday 21st June 2015 at 9:32 am
Outdated it is. Greenbelt policy & control is just a tiny percentage of real the issue. Planing policy, bureaucracy, nimbys, restrictive development, financing, ridiculous building regulations.....the list is endless.

If you don't agree. Check the facts! For 30 years or more we have built less than half the required housing stock (approx 125,000). Whilst the media portray the image "concreting over the countryside" we continue to build well short of the required target.

At the same time prices have has reduced ....population growth has grown exponentially!

Vic and his entourage want 2 bed semis on brownfield sites for fear of damaging a blade of grass. Perhaps Vic and his followers could move into them?