It took less than 20 minutes to reach the decision to refuse the outline planning application on the site at Parkside. The presentation and recommendation from the chief planning officer was clear that this application failed on a number of counts. The comments from the Parish council representative, Andrew Thomson, and a representative of the residents, Isabel Noonan were equally clear in their demolition of the proposed merits of this application. The decision from the Planning committee was unanimous, refused. Before we move on from this satisfactory defence of our village a brief period of reflection does highlight some important lessons to take from the experience and put into our collective ammunition store for the next battle.
To sharpen the significance of this decision it is helpful to compare it to the nearest equivalent application on the ‘Cardamine Gardens’ development. This site is nearly directly opposite the Parkside site and is of identical size in terms of the number of houses planned. The original application (outline) was made in 2014, refused by Cheshire East (CE) in September 2015 and went to appeal in 2016.It therefore provides lots of information on how the situation has changed in dealing with applications.
Note that I am referring to this site as ‘Cardamine Gardens’ as that is the name of the current developer (Duchy Homes) has chosen to use and advertise. However, this site has changed developer several times and I believe it would confuse matters if we used the name of each developer then in possession of the site at any particular point in the process. So I will stick with ‘Cardamine Gardens’ as this is hopefully most familiar to residents.
A fundamental difference between these two sites and the decisions that resulted, was the status of key planning policies. In the table below I list the status of the various policies at the time of the decision. In the case of Cardamine Gardens this was at the appeal stage and in the case of Parkside this was a Cheshire East Planning Committee decision. The policies are those mentioned in the report for each case
NB PG6 this is a policy from Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy – (CELPS). It restricts developments outside development boundaries to a few very limited exemptions.
SD1 this is a CELPS policy. It establishes the criteria to be used in establishing if a development is sustainable.
NE2 & RES5 are policies retained from the Nantwhich and Crewe Local Plan.2005 & 2011. NE2 defines open countryside and RES5 lays out the restiction on development in the open countryside.these policies will be replaced by the CELPS policies once the minister makes the final decision on acceptance of CELPS
With an ‘inadequate’ supply of housing land the local policy framework is much weakened and the developer is going to win unless there is overriding evidence that the development does not conform to the national Planning Framework.
The Parkside decision shows that the CELPS and BNP policies are now legally established and can be fully enforced. In this situation the threat of appeals is much reduced although not completely removed.
Not everything in the garden is perfect, however. The co-location policy is still looking ‘uncertain’ in terms of when it is and when it is not valid. The Parkside argument was that co-location didn’t matter and anyway the site was separated from the Oak Gardens field development by the Oak Gardens development itself. If accepted that would have reduced the co-location policy to the point of futility. Fortunately that minimal distance – 50–60m about, was rejected. However the paddock separating Cardamine Gardens and the Hill Close sites was deemed adequate separation for the co-location rule not to be triggered.
A good result then and clear evidence that policies now have some bite. The open countryside is protected to a greater degree and the character of the village can be defended.