Councillors air their concerns over Garden Village proposals


An exhibition of the proposals for The Garden Village at Handforth, organised by Cheshire East Council's development company, Engine of the North, attracted over 100 people on Wednesday, 16th January.

A broad range of interested parties went along to view the display at Handforth Youth Club and meet members of Members of the Engine of the North team who were on hand to answer any queries about the project.

In addition to local residents, those in attendance included councillors from Stockport MBC, Martin Watkins and Angela McPake from Wilmlow Town Council, the Head Teacher from the Wilmslow Academy Primary School, Friends of Handforth Station, the Chair from Smithy Model Aircraft Club who have for many years rented a small part of Handforth Meadows, Neighbourhood Plan representatives from Woodford, a representative from Handforth and cocoa councillors.

The proposed site is bordered by the A34 to the west and the A555 (Manchester Airport Eastern Link Road) to the north. Subject to receiving planning approval, the new village will provide 1,675 new residential properties. This will include a range of housing types and tenure; including affordable and starter homes, family houses and apartments.

It will also include bungalows suitable for older people and up to 175 extra care housing units for older people who need care. The village will also include employment land and a village centre with shops, pub, restaurants, etc. Other new facilities will include a primary school, children's day nursery, sports facilities, and a village hall. In addition, there will be around 47 hectares of green open space.

Speaking about the proposals, Councillor Barry Burkhill said "I had a long conversation with Scott Royal (Communications Manager at Engine of the North) at the exhibition. I stressed to him that as we have lost 65% of our strategic greenbelt here due to the CEC ruling group's Local Plan, there must be tangible benefits for those who would like to live within the Handforth Garden Village, particularly for our Handforth Ward residents who cannot afford to buy a home locally or even rent one affordably.

"Our main concern is to ensure that within the mix of housing types, there will predominate dwellings of one and two bedrooms, the type of housing which residents need as starter homes. Cheshire East's Planning Policy, sometimes ignored, is to ensure that 30% of a development is for affordable housing. We have been assured that at least 30% of the garden village will be affordable and more would be welcome. 65% of these must be for social rented accommodation which should be administered by a Housing Association or through CEC home choice.

"I also stressed to Scott that we don't want the private landlords buying up scores of the houses and then letting them off at unaffordable rents. Our aim is to ensure that Handforth residents are housed appropriately, to give the opportunity for young family members to move on and to ensure that there are enough dwellings for social rent to house those who are waiting for them."

Councillor Toni Fox, Dean Row Ward, who spent an hour and a half at the exhibition, said "It was disappointing that there wasn't any printed information available to take away but from what I witnessed officers were well informed and helpful on a broad range of topics. It was however unclear as to how the feedback would be considered and potentially incorporated in a planning application."

She added "Immediate concerns that come to mind are how "sustainable" the proposals are. Whilst the government and the Council are publicly committed to reducing air pollution and encouraging the use of public transport, walking and cycling, it is difficult to see how these are a priority for this site given it is bordered by two busy commuter transport corridors.

"For a significant portion of the site the distance is well in excess of the guideline distances for walking to facilities in Handforth, including the train station. This is likely to result in an increased requirement for parking in Handforth that is not currently available.

"Equally concerns relating to the provision of health services and secondary education provision remain outstanding."

Cllr Fox added "It unlikely to be a commercially viable Rapid Bus route and no detail has been given as to who will subsidise it, for what period of time, and what the routes will be.

"There are outstanding issues in respect of the Rapid Bus route via Dairy House Lane to Hall Moss Lane - how this will work in reality as a bus route only - given this is the main point of access to the MOD site and one of the accesses used by members of Total Fitness. Equally this is a cross border consideration for Stockport MBC and any traffic implications connected with it."

She continued "It is disappointing that that the area, designated in 2016 as a Local Wildlife Site which lies to the west of the site, is proposed to be largely built upon.

"A significant area of the site, previously occupied by the MOD, has been undisturbed for many years, more so since the A34 bypass was constructed in the 1990's. During the intervening period protected species have returned to this area. There are very few areas in the Borough of Cheshire East Council, particularly close to nearby conurbations in the north of Borough, that offer such diversity and ecological value on land that is not managed.

"The LWS that currently lies to the north of the access road to Total Fitness and west of the A34 has been largely ignored by the Council for many years. Protected species were relocated here where there are 3 large ponds as part of the both the Handforth Dean development and the A34 bypass. Over the years it has been subjected to heavy littering by off road bikers and folk fishing and no effort has been made by the Council to protect or look after it.

"Build rate on new development varies however if we take Heathfield Farm as an example they propose a build rate of 40 houses per annum. It seems somewhat unrealistic therefore that this site will be completed by 2030 even if there are multiple developers on site. It is baffling as to why such a timescale is being promoted."

Engine of the North is preparing to submit a planning application for The Garden Village at Handforth in the coming weeks, and will shortly conduct public consultation on the proposed planning application.

The planning application will be a 'hybrid' submission, with outline permission being sought to establish the principles for housing and the wider site layout, and detailed permission being sought for the site accesses, infrastructure and public realm to create the village centre.

Handforth Garden Village


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

Pete Taylor
Friday 18th January 2019 at 11:09 pm
Any news on the faked (illegal) air-pollution figures (which allowed this application to be submitted in the first place) enquiry? Has anyone at CEC been prosecuted? Has any CEC Officer been suspended? Has any elected Councillor been forced to step down? Get your FOI requests in now.

The construction of housing on the massive Green Belt site in question has be contentious for many years; CEC have got themselves into more than a few controversies (even amongst their own Conservative Party ranks) allegations made, fingers pointed, accusations made, sackings, etc.

For example (there are many more on this site and elsewhere in the public domain):
Unless, of course, I've got completely the wrong location; in which case I apologise, unreservedly to all parties involved; for my geographical lack of knowledge and any wrong end of sticks which I may have picked up.
Roger Bagguley
Saturday 19th January 2019 at 10:38 am
There really does have to be a secondary school somewhere in the planning of this village. With over 1600 houses being planned and immediately on the other side of the new A555 the GMC Local Plan could bring a further 5000 houses to the area, something has to happen. In the meantime the policy is to increase the size of WHS year on year by adding additional classes to Y7. I get this but it cannot go on indefinitely. As it is today access to the site is problematic with traffic flow and parking causing serious annoyance to neighbours of the school, choking of the A34 at peak times and of the local streets too. We should not forget here the number of young people needing to travel daily from Handforth as WHS is their only choice of local school within the Authority.

One model put to stakeholders creates an Academy at Handforth. The more one thinks of this the more attractive it becomes. If CEC owns most of the land assigned to the new village and the safeguarded land adjacent to this then there are rich pickings to be had. Add to this the 106 and new homes bonus monies coming from Government there is a pot of gold from which to afford the very latest design of schools. There is even more money available in setting up a new school coming with an Academy. It adds up to a very attractive proposition when a new secondary school can be built at little or no cost to the council.

Some years ago a new build Parrswood High School was paid for through the development of what we know today as the Parrswood Leisure Complex. As Stockport schools are full a shared secondary provision to meet the needs of a rapidly growing local population is a no brainer. It comes at almost zero cost and will bring some relief to Wilmslow and the long suffering neighbours of the High School.
John Smith
Saturday 19th January 2019 at 1:32 pm
As a Handforth Parish Councillor I was keen to see the more detailed view of the Engine of the North plans for the Handforth Garden Village (HGV) on Wednesday evening.

I found Cllr Fox's comments in the above article regarding lack of bus transport proposals in the plan and the expected increase in parking problems in Handforth to be misleading and incorrect.

I discussed at length with one of the Planning Consultants the original suggested route for a bus service which would transport residents from the HGV to Handforth Station. The proposed parking facility on land between Handforth Youth Centre and St. Benedict's church was shown on the first board at the presentation.

We agreed that the original route as shown in the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan (HNP) was not suitable, but that a route from the HGV which ran behind Handforth Dean and via Stanley Green Trading Estate and into Handforth would be far more useful to commuters. We also agreed that this proposed service should form part of any overall solution for buses in Handforth/Wilmslow.

It would seem that Cllr Fox has not read the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan, which is an excellent document and is available for examination at Handforth Library.
Toni Fox
Saturday 19th January 2019 at 5:02 pm
Dear Mr Smith,

Indeed I have read Handforth’s Neighbourhood Plan which I agree is an excellent document.

It is a misconception that Cheshire East Council has to comply with Neighbourhood Plans. Whilst any legally endorsed Neighbourhood Plan is one of many material planning considerations in determing a planning application Planning Committees at Cheshire East Council can, and have, approved planning applications that do not comply with them.

Unfortunately despite what you may have agreed verbally with an officer at a public exhibition, or the policies contained in a Neighbourhood Plan, neither offers any guarantee that these will be reflected in a submitted planning application.

How many new car parking spaces are required to meet existing need in Handforth? How many additional spaces will be required once the Clay Lane/Sagars Road site and the North Cheshire Growth Village have been built? The answer is Cheshire East Council does not know, but it knows there is already a problem. This is one of the reasons why Handforth was included in the list of Towns across the Borough for a parking survey in the High Level Parking Strategy in 2017.

What we also know is that in order to save money Cheshire East Council has recently reduced the number of bus services they subsidise. Given this fact, and that it is being proposed and that the Rapid Bus service will link in with the new development at Woodford, which Authority is going to guarantee to subsidise a new bus service and for how long?

Councillor Toni Fox
Roger Bagguley
Saturday 19th January 2019 at 5:57 pm
It is good to see that a Handforth Parish Councillor visited the presentation and engaged in useful discussion. Martin Watkins and Angela McPake from WTC too. Of course Handforth people can depend on Ward Councillor Barry Birkhill too. With Councillor Fox asking questions from across the border then Handforth residents are well represented. I noted no Wilmslow Ward Councillors were recorded as being present, other than Toni Fox. WTC Councillors Martin Watkins and Angela McPake will have taken note of this. After all what is happening in Handforth and what is being planned for by GMC across the other side of the A555 will profoundly impact upon Wilmslow. Not just secondary education, doctors surgeries etc but upon the whole of the local infrastructure.
Manuel Golding
Monday 21st January 2019 at 1:46 pm
I fear that Handforth Parish councillor John Smith is heading for a massive reality check if he continues to have faith in his purported conversation with a CEC planning apparatchik. CEC councilor Toni Fox (RoW, Dean Row councillor) is right to tell Cllr Smith to not pin his hopes nor too much confidence in CEC acting in good faith by respecting the Handforth NP as being the criteria for the future Handforth development.
Both myself and RoW have attended many CEC "public consultations" both on site and before the "independent" planning inspector's many hearings re the Local Plan. If our views and yours Cllr Smith, do bot accord with the planners they are & will be ignored. Any imaginary verbal "agreement" you believe you have reached is worthless. Even if you both have signed such a written agreement (Have you his name & position? Time & date of your conversation? Even with these it is worth less than a worthless guarantee from a bankrupt business!!)
Therefore Cllr Fox is absolutely correct in drawing your attention to the real world; it ain't like you imagine it to be,
John Smith
Tuesday 22nd January 2019 at 11:42 am
Engine of the North (EotN) have given verbal assurance (as well as written in the Garden Village SPD) that they are obliged to offset some impacts from the development of the Handforth Garden Village (HGV) through section 106 funding.

From their review of the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan (HNP) they have identified 2 primary mitigation measures which they can undertake to fulfil their obligations.

1. Construction of a station car park between Handforth Youth Centre and
St Benedict’s.
2. To run a rapid transport bus service between the HGV and this car park, subsidised for 5 years through S106 agreement.

This is the service which I was discussing on Wednesday evening which would also run through Handforth village and terminate at the station car park. I would like to see this subsidised service form the basis for a more comprehensive route.

Also during the recent Access for All (AfA) grant application meeting which I attended as the Handforth Parish Council (HPC) representative, Friends of Handforth Station (FoHS) also met with CEC Local Transport strategy officers who agreed that the station car park as referred to in the HNP, (Policy H17 Public Car Parking and Policy H20 Supporting Investment in Infrastructure) should be built and this is contained within the draft CEC local transport strategy plan. Alongside a host of measures to improve the crossing on Station Road as well as footpath improvements on the approach to the station from the east. These were confirmed in the AfA application.

Planning officers must give the HNP equal weighting to the CELPS (Local Plan) when reviewing planning applications.

The possible station car park would allow commuters using the train to park cars, motor cycles or bicycles in a secure manner. Many cars are parked all day on Church Road or in the Library/Health Centre car park and on South Acre Drive amongst others. Giving a reliable safe alternative coupled with enforcement may reduce this issue.

I prefer to consider the glass half full, not half empty. As you say, we have no guarantees any of this will come to fruition, but, I’d rather attempt to make it happen instead of assuming it won’t.

John M. Smith
Manuel Golding
Tuesday 22nd January 2019 at 4:06 pm
History, Mr Smith, should be our guide to future human behaviour.
Half full glass or half empty, believe it or not, both are at the very same level.
I hope you are proven right to have faith in CECs behaviour but spots and leopards spring to mind
Andrew Backhouse
Thursday 24th January 2019 at 10:24 am
I was intrigued by the way we get different stories according to who we talk to. One of those at the consultation talked of 'affordable housing' being provided and required - but would not include social housing as a necessity, and another said it would be included if housing associations wanted it - nothing about the needs or wishes of Handforth people. I do feel we need to redefine 'affordable' as slightly cheaper on overpriced houses!

Having read many comments over the years on about the congestion on the A34, it was disappointing to see that the main access will be the Coppice Way roundabout - holding up traffic rather than using the Tesco dumbbell roundabout, which at least would reduce delays to traffic going the other way in the mornings. And it would be good to see how the new foot and bike bridge across the A34 would look and attract people to use it to the station. We should be installing a lot of bike space at the station if we were really thinking of the future. And where is the thinking on a complete reorganisation of bus routes to get us out of our cars?