Plans for affordable housing site approved 'in principle'


Planning permission, in principle, has been granted for the construction of an affordable housing site on the outskirts of Alderley Edge.

The indicative proposal is for 9 dwellings on land adjacent to Jenny Heyes on Heyes Lane. Whilst the 0.2 hectare, which lies within the open countryside and Green Belt, is located within the parish of Wilmslow it is directly adjacent to Alderley Edge.

The application approved by the Northern Planning Committee on Wednesday, 13th March, represented the first stage in the process to establish whether the site was suitable in principle. A further planning application (stage two) containing the detailed proposals would need to be assessed at a later stage.

Planning Officer Paul Wakefield told members "So at this stage, with this application we have got today, stage one, the scope of it is limited to consideration of its location, land use and the amount of development."

The planning officer recommended the planning application for approval concluding "The site is located within the open countryside and Green Belt and the proposal comprises 100% affordable housing to serve an identified local need. Therefore the proposals qualify as an exceptional form of development which would not be an inappropriate in the Green Belt.

"The proposals would contribute towards to local affordable housing needs of Alderley Edge and a development of 9 units would be appropriate in terms of density in this location. It is considered that a suitable layout of development could be achieved that overcomes flood risk concerns, amenity, highway and tree issues. There are no ecological issues highlighted at this stage.

"Overall, the principle of small-scale residential development in this location would not result in any conflict with the development plan. The application is therefore recommended for approval."

Councillor Craig Browne (Alderley Edge Ward Independent) provided a statement to be read out on his behalf, in which he said "That the proposals meet the green belt exception criterion for affordable housing is not disputed; however, the proposed site does not satisfy the "brownfield first" principle set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The brownfield first principle is established in the Cheshire East Local Plan, as well as both the Alderley Edge & Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plans.

"More suitable brownfield sites are available within Alderley Edge, including Holmfield (under the ownership of Cheshire Peaks & Plains), Red Roofs and Hole Farm (both currently under the ownership of Cheshire East Council).

He continued "The report also describes the development site as a sustainable location, but then goes on to explain that it is a 1km walk from Alderley Edge as a local service centre and in truth is at least twice as far from the commercial centre of Wilmslow. The site is also 1km from the nearest bus service, the 130 which runs hourly along London Road.

"The report is silent on the fact that the SADPD has allocated safeguarded land within Alderley Edge for development of approximately 70 dwellings at Ryleys Farm. This site lies within the settlement boundary and is also far more appropriate to meeting the needs of the local population, which is why (unlike the Jenny Heyes site) it was included in the plan."

Before concluding "Today, members face a choice between defending plan-led development or supporting speculative, unplanned and inappropriate development. In summary, this site is unsuitable, is a known flood risk, is in an unsustainable location and is in conflict with several policies in the Local Plan, SADPD & Neighbourhood Plans. Accordingly, consent should be denied."

Councillor Vince Fogharty represented Alderley Edge Parish Council and spoke against the proposal on the grounds of violation of the brownfield first principle, misrepresentation of the sites location and suitability because the portrayal that the proposed site is surrounded by development is misleading, characterising the proposed site as a sustainable location overlooks it's considerable distance from public transport and the commercial centre of village, the lack of footpath access and the application fails to specify the tenure of the affordable properties which raises concerns about the genuineness of the affordability claim.

Councillor Vince Fogharty concluded "The proposal not only breaches pivotal planning policies but also introduces alarming uncertainties regarding its feasibility, sustainability and contribution to the community. It optimises speculative planning that risks the degradation of our valued green belt without justification or benefit to the community. We urge the committee to reject this application reinforcing our dedication to considered, sustainable and inclusive development within Alderley Edge."

Councillor Jon Newell, spoke on behalf of Wilmslow Town Council, recommending members refuse planning permission.

He said "The proposed development is inappropriate in the green belt, will negatively impact on the openness of the green belt and the benefits will not outweigh the resulting harm.

"Wilmslow Town Council fully recognises the shortfall of affordable housing in our area but we do not believe developments such as these are the answer. The only reason this site can support 100% affordable housing is because the land is cheap and the only reason it's cheap is because it's in the green belt. There are other solutions to deliver affordable housing which could be considered without putting pressure on the green belt. To allow this development could potentially set a disastrous precedent."

Nick Scott, the planning consultant for the applicant, also addressed the committee.

He said "The site's within the green belt, and as we all know there is a presumption against development in the greenbelt, however the proposal for limited affordable housing which meets local needs is considered an exception to that presumption. I should stress this scheme will not only meet the needs of Alderley Edge but also Wilmslow therefore it is not an inappropriate development in the green belt."

He added "There is a clear and pressing need as we all know for affordable housing in Alderley Edge, and Wilmslow for that matter, given the significant affordability issues in the area. The housing needs assessment that accompanied the application includes all of those people on the housing register and those dwellings that contribute to meeting part of that need.

"Should permission be granted the applicant would then proceed to work up a detailed scheme in partnership with a registered affordable housing provider."

Councillor Michael Gorman (Wilmslow West and Chorley Independent) opened the debate "There's a very strong feeling here locally against this development and it brings to mind the question what is the point of local plans, of neighbourhood plans if all that activity, all that discussion, all that focus if we don't take account of them.

"There seems to be a lot of misrepresentation and confusion here about boundaries, about where this lies about what particular plan it addresses, what it doesn't address.

"Firstly, the brownfield first policy seems to be completely breached by this. Other options haven't been fully examined, I don't think there's any real evidence of that. There are other brownfield sites that could be looked at before this and they clearly haven't been, This is speculative development by the developer on the edge of Alderley Edge.

"This is open green belt this is not enclosed as it's claimed by the agent."

He added "The sustainability argument just doesn't stand up to examination. The clear distance from local services, whether it be Alderley Edge or Wilmslow East for that matter, there's a footway disconnect. Anybody who knows that site will know from a pedestrian point of view it's completely dangerous. The flood risk, as the environmental agency have pointed out is palpable. All councillors in the area are very aware of the flood risk in the area from Whitehall Brook. I spent some time in January just down from Whitehall Brook here helping residents mop out two feet of water that had come into their houses from Whitehall Brook. So there is a real flood risk here. Houses are flooding in this area. It is not something that might happen in the future it is happening now.

"The affordability argument is completely ambiguous and unconvincing. There are attempts by both Wilmslow Town Councillors and Alderley Edge Parish Council to address the affordability issue. We have got Handforth Garden Village on the horizon, also looking at other sites such as the old police station,. There are sites in Alderley Edge as well. I just don't accept that this is going to be part of that affordability option so I would really urge that this application is rejected."

Councillor Fiona Wilson (Macclesfield South Labour) commented "The issue we are addressing is about actually permission in principle. The issues of concern have been raised, particularly flooding, transport issues all issues I am concerned about when we address these issues. That will come if we get a further application.

"There really is no reason to refuse this application so I would certainly support the officer's recommendation."

Councillor Ken Edwards (Bollington Labour and Co-Operative) said "I have to agree that I do not think there is any real reason given the policies as outlined to refuse the principle of development on this site.

"I don't think it's sustainable for people who'd make use of affordable housing. I don't think the ten units is going to be make a massive contribution to the considerable needs which has been expressed by the councillors and which I agree with. However, I don't think I can vote against it because if the nature of the amendments of the legislation over the years to the National Policy Framework (NPF) that have been described, some of which I think have only been produced in 2023. So I'm still making up my mind chair."

Councillor Nick Mannion (Macclesfield West and Ivy Labour) said "I would like to formally recommend we approve the officer's recommendation in this with a full understanding that when and if a full application comes forward the issues raised this morning, which have not been directly relevant today will be very relevant when and if it comes back."

After much debate members voted in favour of the proposal by 7 votes to 4.

The plans can be viewed on the Cheshire East Planning Portal by searching for planning reference 23/4024M.



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

Richard Mason
Thursday 14th March 2024 at 1:51 pm
Who says that local council processes are straightforwards and not a waste of time and money?
Here's a prime example - planning proposal for something that in reality every councillor quoted is against on that grounds that it is unsuitable. But voted through as "in theory" something could be built there! So glad that I will be funding the tea and biscuits when they meet again to discuss the next stage!
David Jefferay
Thursday 14th March 2024 at 9:34 pm
Richard, I am chair of the Northern Planning Committee which determined this application. I understand how it sounds like a waste of time and effort but unfortunately we are bound by national policies which mean, for this type of application, we were only allowed to consider "location, land use and amount of development". On these factors, the committee decided that it was acceptable (although I personally voted against it as I believe the applicant had not demonstrated, as required, that other more suitable sites are not available in the area). I think you are right in your observation that many of the committee expressed concerns about whether a full application could be acceptable when other aspects of the development are considered though. A refusal at this stage based on speculation of what is coming forward in the detailed application would result in the applicant simply going to the planning inspector on appeal and the council having to pay costs.
I don't know the applicants motivation for going down this route (probably de-risking the project by getting confirmation that it is at least acceptable in principle before spending money on design) but I think I would have included at least the means of access in an outline application as that is one of the main challenges I can foresee.
The officers commented that it is rare that Cheshire East Council receives this type of application and I don't recall considering one before in my 5 years on Cheshire East Planning Committees and 5 years on Wilmslow Town Council Planning committee prior to that. Normally we would see an outline application including access followed up by a reserved matters application with all the detail in...not an application so limited in scope as location, land use and amount of development.
Richard Mason
Friday 15th March 2024 at 12:06 pm
Thanks for the explanation David,
Sounds to me like an overcomplicated system - typical of anything that government and the civil cervice have set up. My view is that local councils should have the ability to veto proposals such as this at an early stage to save time money and effort. We all agree that there is a need for affordable housing in the area, but 9 houses is barely a drop in the ocean. Surely it would make more sense for the government to allow councils to say "No to any proposed green belt development until the brownfield sites have been exhausted. No right of appeal and no costly extended processes." If only local councils had the freedom to be able to do things like that.
Jon Williams
Friday 15th March 2024 at 2:10 pm
I pity the children walking to Wilmslow High School, no footpath, no street lights. Yet another wrong approval by C/E.
David Jefferay
Friday 15th March 2024 at 5:56 pm
Richard, yes there are many flaws in our current planning system.
Jon, this has not been approved. Just the principle of development. There is a good chance it will fall at the next stage.
Sheila Grindrod
Saturday 16th March 2024 at 6:48 pm
Yet again a proposal on green belt land. Good luck with affordable housing no such thing and who is going indemnify anyone who buys one of these houses when the land floods?? There has been flooding on Alderley Road and that's not been corrected so why should we think this would be dealt with. Mortgage companies will not insure such a risk.
Richard Armstead
Sunday 17th March 2024 at 9:06 am
The history of CE planning applications based on 'affordable housing' is murky indeed. Firstly a 30% minimum is never met and the definition of affordable is anything depending on one's point of view. The definition within the planning policies themselves is to say the least debateable.

This preliminary application was approved on this basis of 100% affordable housing. It is on this basis that the application should have been challenged and argued.

I am interested to know whether the planning officer in his approval defined 'affordable' in this case and if any future application by the developer to reduce the 100% based on affordability would be refused. If this is not written in to the planning officers conditions for approval I fear a Trojan Horse waiting at the gate.
Alan Brough
Monday 18th March 2024 at 10:02 am
"Affordable," in Planning terms, appears to be defined as 20 per cent below the average market rate within the area. In Alderley Edge this is unlikely to offer much comfort to low paid workers or youngsters wanting to buy a first property without having to travel miles to do so.

That said, I'm more concerned about the fact that there are numerous sizeable developments either completed or underway but little thought given to road / rail / bus infrastructure or provision of the Medical / Dental / Education services that should be in place before any such development is considered.

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