Possible judicial review over controversial housing schemes

Objectors to major housing developments in Henbury, outside Macclesfield, are set to explore launching a judicial review after the schemes were given planning permission by Cheshire East Council despite issues including traffic and air quality.

One of the developments’ main objectors, Henbury Parish Council, branded the schemes as “ill-conceived” and signalled their intention to look at start the proceedings of a judicial review to challenge the council’s decision.

The housing projects, one by Jones Homes and Redrow and the other by Frederic Robinson, add up to nearly 370 homes and were both given backing by Cheshire East councillors at the meeting on 4 September, in line with officer recommendation.

Jones and Redrow’s plans include 233 homes south of Chelford Road, while Frederic Robinsons’ feature 135 houses opposite the Cock Inn to the north of the same road.

Both sites are allocated for housing under Cheshire East’s Local Plan.

Central to the parish council’s argument is the air quality data gathered in regard to the Broken Cross Air Quality Monitoring Area, which both developments feed into.

The parish council argued data from the pollution diffusion tube CE91 was not included, despite this showing the worst level of air pollution. According to the parish council, Cheshire East Council initially claimed the tube had been removed by the landowner at Broken Cross, before later stating the landowner had asked for it to be removed.


Main image: Above: Frederic Robinsons’ plans are for 135 houses opposite the Cock Inn on Chelford Road, Henbury. Above: Redrow/Jones Henbury development comprise 233 homes south of Chelford Road

However, the parish council said the landowner confirmed he had neither removed it or asked for the diffusion tube to be removed; this prompted Cllr Barry Burkhill to ask at committee whether “there was a plot” to keep air quality data from members.

A spokesperson from Henbury Parish Council said: “Had tube CE91 still been in place it would have shown that a significant number of properties in the AQMA are still facing illegal levels of pollution, putting the health of the residents at risk.”

However, refuting the objectors’ claims, planners for Cheshire East said the situation regarding tubes at Broken Cross was “under review, as are all of the tube sites across the borough on a periodic basis to see whether more tubes are needed, or to remove ones that aren’t necessary any more”.

Planners claimed Frederic Robinson’s representatives had provided “an updated set of data” including tube CE257, which is “closer to the roadside” than CE91. However, planners also said modelling had been “unable to replicate the results shown by CE91 for a variety of reasons”.

“The [air quality] assessment uses an educated approximation of the non-peak hour queue length which also takes into account the signalisation of the junction at Broken Cross,” said the planners.

“The developments themselves are not considered to have a detrimental impact on air quality, subject to proposed mitigation measures”.

The parish council also claimed the provision for education for the developments was “totally flawed” with Cheshire East having “no idea or plan as to where children would be educated”.

According to a Freedom of Information request, Cheshire East’s education department has carried out Section 77 school space requirement tests, which showed all local schools had no land available to provide additional buildings or more school places.

“There are only a handful of primary places but all of Macclesfield’s secondary schools are full and oversubscribed,” claimed a parish council spokesperson.

“None of the Section 106 funds will benefit local education in Macclesfield, the money will go elsewhere.”

Again looking to refute the claims, Cheshire East planners said: “The impact of the proposed developments on school places has been assessed in context of the capacity of the local schools.

“Accordingly, the financial contributions sought towards education would be used to facilitate the inclusion of those pupils generated by the proposals within the schools in the area.”

Frederic Robinsons’ proposal is expected to contribute £672,668 towards education provision, while Jones and Redrow will contribute nearly £1.2m, adding up to a total of around £1.9m in Section 106 contributions.

The committee’s chair, Cllr Gill Merry cited her position as an academy governor and said “a prerequisite of schools receiving Section 106 funding is that the schools should be big enough to accommodate the extra places.”

However, Henbury Parish Council added the information supplied to committee could have been “misleading” due to the Section 77 findings not being presented.

The objectors were also scathing in their assessment of Cheshire East’s transport assessment, branded “a joke” by a spokesperson.

Many of the traffic issues focus on Broken Cross roundabout, which is being proposed to change to a signalled junction; however, the parish council’s spokesperson claimed this junction would be “over capacity from day one” according to Cheshire East’s own assessment.


Concerns about the air quality at Broken Cross have been raised. Image Google maps

“The Chair said the committee had been to see Broken Cross roundabout for themselves, but our sources confirm they may have driven around it, they didn’t actually get out of their vehicles and inspect the location, the four spurs off the roundabout or the major Tesco Express access which feeds on to the roundabout,” said the spokesperson.

“At least two of the four committee members [the committee has 10 members] who bothered to turn up to the site visit, didn’t even go near Broken Cross Roundabout.”

However, speaking at committee, council highways officers said adding the signalled junction was “the best available option”; this would cost £855,000, and would need to be delivered “prior to the occupation of the 100th unit across the two larger sites”.

“The junction will work to an acceptable level within acceptable parameters up until five years of the application’s submission.”

Signalling its intention to seek a judicial review with the help of an unnamed local backer, the statement from Henbury Parish Council concluded: “It was stated by a number of speakers, and some of the committee, that Cheshire East already had their five-year supply of housing, so these sites were not needed, and perhaps we should question why the Local Plan team included these sites when they had previously been removed in 2010.

“The Planning Inspector had asked for more sites in the north of the borough, near transport connections, not east of the borough.

This is an ill-conceived plan, which forms part of the flawed Local Plan, which fails to address the housing requirements for Macclesfield for affordable and starter homes in town centre areas, utilising the substantial brown field site stock available to Cheshire East Council, located close to the transport connectivity, shops and leisure facilities which these people require.

“Henbury Parish Council will now ask the Cheshire East monitoring officer to read their complaint and following a donation of unlimited funds from an unnamed developer, [we] are now able to consider asking Leigh Day to start the proceedings of a Judicial Review, to check the points regarding Pollution and Education.

“Henbury Parish Council will now ask the Education Department & the local school governors to make available a detailed plan of action to indicate where local children will be educated.”

A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said:  “The sites are allocated within the Cheshire East Local Plan for housing and therefore the principle of their development is already established.

“The applications were subject to extensive public consultation and scrutiny during the past 10 months, with a particular focus on air quality and highway matters.

“Other issues, including ecology, have also been considered by professional officers in their respective consultation responses.  As with normal process, there are outline schemes which need to be agreed in principle, with many detailed matters conditioned to follow through further applications.”

The planning consultant acting for both schemes, GVA How, was also contacted for comment.

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