'Decision is a waste of public money and a shambolic example of the broken planning system'


The Chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living has hit back at the Council's decision to refuse planning permission for their development of 34 retirement apartments on Holly Road South.

Last week the Northern Planning Committee went against the recommendation of the Planning Officer and refused the scheme (reference 23/0853M) which means Churchill's appeal against their refusal of a previous, similar scheme (ref 22/2347M) will now go ahead.

Spencer J McCarthy, Chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living, claims the decision "is a waste of public money and a shambolic example of the broken planning system" and as a result £100,000 of public money will be wasted on defending an unnecessary planning appeal.

He said "This is shockingly ignorant behaviour from the elected members who sit on the Planning Committee, and in my view they should be held personally responsible for the waste of public money and resources. It's unfair for innocent local people to have to foot this bill.

"The Government has recently set up a new Older People's Housing Taskforce specifically to aid delivery of this type of housing, due to our ageing population and the critical need to ensure that genuine housing choices are available for older people. It is disappointing that Cheshire East's elected members fail to heed this."

The company states that their proposed development would bring over £264,000 per year of extra spending to Wilmslow's local high street, help generate over £154,000 of savings each year for local health and social care services and free up under-occupied housing for the younger generation by enabling over 60s to downsize.

Churchills' first planning application for this site was refused in February, due to the absence of an agreed affordable housing contribution, a lack of on-site car parking and inadequate information provided regarding the potential impact on existing trees.

Churchill Living subsequently lodged an appeal, which scheduled to start on June 27th. Then, in an unusual move, the Chief Executive removed the two reasons relating to lack of parking and failure to provide on-site affordable housing or open space. Leaving the potential impact on existing trees, due to a lack of information being provided, as the only reason for refusal.

Shortly afterwards Churchill submitted a second planning application, with the aim of quickly resolving the three outstanding issues.

Spencer J McCarthy commented "The professional Planning Officer team at Cheshire East worked proactively with us to move our second application forward. Agreement was reached on the Affordable Housing contribution and with the level of car parking provision, and the Council agreed to withdraw these as reasons for refusal from the appeal. The only remaining issue was the lack of tree information, which was subsequently submitted as part of the second application and endorsed by the Officers as being sufficient to overcome the Council's concerns."

Churchill's second application was discussed at the Northern Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, 7th June, when the Planning Officer recommended it for approval.

McCarthy said "Given this, the Government's appointed Planning Inspector had agreed to delay the start of the Public Inquiry in order to allow the determination of our second application, so that if it was approved (as anticipated by ourselves and the Council's officers) the further work and cost of the appeal could be avoided.

"Unfortunately, the Council's Planning Committee had other ideas, and our second application was refused. All professional advice and empirical evidence was ignored, including the warnings about the cost this decision is likely to incur."

He added "Ironically, since all reasons for refusal on our appeal have been resolved, the Council's only option when the appeal opens on 27th June will be to inform the Inspector that they have no objection to the scheme.

"By forcing the continuation of the appeal through to a Public Inquiry, the Council have wasted the time and resources of their own Officers, the Planning Inspectorate, and my company. It's also likely the Council will be ordered to pick up the full costs of the appeal for all parties – likely to be c.£100,000 – based on its unreasonable behaviour. I think it wholly unreasonable for innocent local people to have to cover this cost. Sadly this is yet another example of our broken planning system in action."

Churchill Retirement Living


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

Pete Wright
Tuesday 13th June 2023 at 12:07 pm
Some of the statements from "Churchill" are speculative to say the least, such as the "over a quarter of a million pounds that would be spent in Wilmslow's High St (wherever that is) per year by residents", and how the younger generation would afford to buy properties from older people downsizing isn't explained, simply thrown out there as if it's a nailed-on fact, forgetting those properties would most often be totally out of financial reach. Finally if they dont want taxpayers to foot the bill for any subsequent appeal, perhaps they could consider withdrawing the planning applicaton (or amending the proposals so it wouldn't be refused), therefore no appeal would be required. Just a thought
Roger Bagguley
Tuesday 13th June 2023 at 6:34 pm
If the planning system is flawed it is because it allows for uncaring developers to have imposed upon local residents huge buildings that blight their very existences. It might well be the case national statistics highlight a shortfall in accommodation for older people but this is not the case for Wilmslow. Here it has become one care home and accommodation for older people after another. We simply do not need or want any more.

This application needs to fail on numerous issues including the parking and trees. Affordable homes too: Too easy for developers to export
these via s106 agreement. It protects their ambitious margins leaving the local authority with the task of providing cheaper accommodation most needed for young people brought up in Wilmslow. There are an ever increasing number of these agreements being approved but we have yet to see the housing.
Tony Haluradivth
Wednesday 14th June 2023 at 7:17 am
Well done Northern Planning. The greed and arrogance of these Developers showcased again for all to see, the Council have acted in the very best interests of the town Spencer..
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 14th June 2023 at 12:46 pm
Spencer J McCarthy, Chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living excels here just like a bully, threatening CE taxpayers with costs for rejecting his flawed development plans. Members of the Northern Planning have rightly seen through his greedy plans,shortchanging the neighborhood with his "to hell with the neighborhood". If he is so concerned for the CE tax payers why doesn't he offer to pay the costs for his flawed plans? Put your money where your mouth is Mr McCarthy?
Robert Taylor
Wednesday 14th June 2023 at 2:08 pm
Another vote here for rightful local resistance. However as a town planner I note there is a growing resentment for this local opposition to developments and if you care about the right decisions being made then look out for all those planning reforms talked about in mainstream media and make representations on them - the planning systemm has to be shaped for collective interests and not [just] capitalists. I really sincerely hope that the planning system is just properly resourced into the future to enable good local decision making to be made. In the last 10-15 years planning budgets accross the country have been cut in half and there are 30% fewer planners doing work in local authorities. An RTPI report also notes that 30 per cent fewer enforcement notices nationwide were issued in 2018/19 than in 2008/09.
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 14th June 2023 at 8:26 pm
I think he is probably more concerned about his own legal costs rather than those of the taxpayer.

As someone who helped to develop and get the Wilmslow Neighbourhood implemented, I am glad to see our councillors using it as a reason to support their refusal.