Next Step - Judicial Review?

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Following the decision by Cheshire East on Tuesday approving the building of nearly 400 houses either side of Chelford Road, we have more details from the Henbury Parish Council team who attended the meeting.

The team had several areas of concern regarding the way in which the decision was reached:

1) Air Quality

This is a key concern, as all the developments will feed additional traffic through the Broken Cross AQMA.

Henbury Parish Council (HPC) pointed out that the data from diffusion tube CE91 was not included in the air quality modelling, even though this showed the highest level of pollution in the AQMA. CEC initially said the resident had removed the tube, later stating that the resident had asked for it to be removed.

A Freedom of Information request has been submitted to Cheshire East to locate the request trail. However, the Parish Council team say the resident has confirmed he has neither removed it or asked for it to be removed. Whilst discussing the pollution, one of the Cheshire East Councillors asked the committee "if there was a plot".

HPC believe that if tube CE91 was still 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.

Cheshire East have stated that the situation regarding diffusion tube monitors at Broken Cross is "under review" along with all sites across the borough, to see whether more tubes are needed, or to remove tubes that are no longer necessary.

Officers also stated that modelling of air quality results had been "unable to replicate the results shown by CE91 for a variety of reasons".

2) Education Provision

HPC believe that the provision for education is totally flawed, and this has been overlooked, ever since these sites were rushed in to the Local Plan. They fear that Cheshire East has no idea or plan as to where these children will be educated.

As part of the planning permission, the developers will be required to make a contribution towards education provision. These are known as Section 106 agreements.
 
A spokesman for Henbury Parish Council stated that according to another Freedom of Information request, Cheshire East education department have carried out Section 77 school space requirement tests, which showed all local schools have no land available for building expansion.
 
On that basis, it is feared that none of the Section 106 funds will benefit local education in Macclesfield, money will go elsewhere.

An HPC spokesman stated "There's a handful of primary places, but ALL Macclesfield's secondary schools are full and oversubscribed, year on year and with all the current house-building, any spare has been swallowed up. The lack of places is not isolated to the Fallibroome Academy Trust, but right across all Macclesfield Academies".

He added "It could be seen by some, that the information the education department supplied, and the information in the officer's report was misleading the committee, in that they have not indicated that the section 77 has shown there are no places available. However, despite objections from HPC and others, the officer has chosen to ignore this".

3) Transport

The Parish Council team felt that the traffic section and presentation by the Officers was "a joke", and that the planning officers used skewed figures to convince the committee that adding 1000 cars to the already saturated roads, would reduce congestion.

It is planned to replace the current Broken Cross roundabout with a signalled junction. However, the HPC spokesman stated that "the system will be over capacity by day one, according to Cheshire East's own assessment".

HPC has provided a comprehensive transport assessment, which again shows the council figures as flawed.
 
There was much confusion regarding the timing cycles of the planned pedestrian crossing on the A537 (one of Britain's most dangerous roads, official), which had been modelled as 3 x 3 minutes cycles, 9 minutes. HPC believe the officers were trying to say that if the button is pressed the pedestrians would be able to cross on the next cycle, so they don't have to wait up to 9 mins. However, the junction modelling was based on an average of 3 cycles, so if it's used more than that, then the traffic will obviously queue more than the models suggest. That, together with the admission that the Tesco impact will be considered 'in the future', suggests that CE really don't know how the junction will operate, but HPC expect the queues at peak time to be substantially increased.
 
The Chair said the committee had been to see Broken Cross roundabout for themselves, but HPC 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 onto the roundabout. Another point the officer chose to ignore. At least two of the four committee members, (the total committees is 10 members), who bothered to turn up to the site visit, didn't even go near Broken Cross Roundabout.

4) Summary

HPC were disappointed to see one Councillor seemingly voting for no other reason than to see development away from Crewe & Alsager, "We have had this problem in Alsager, so why shouldn't you have it now".
 
The committee in approving site 17/4034M have sanctioned an easement which will damage the local wildlife site, which is totally in conflict with the Cheshire East Local plan policies.
 
The committee in approving 17/4277M have sanctioned development access to Whirley Road, despite Highways Officers stating in the final site selection document of the Local Plan that, "Whirley Road, is totally unsuitable to development access". Again ignoring their own expert's advice.
 
It was stated by a number of speakers, and some of the committee, that Cheshire East already had their five year supply of houses, so these sites were not needed. HPC question why the Local Plan team included these sites when they had previously been removed in 2010. The Planning Inspector asked for more sites in the North of the borough, near transport connections, not East of the borough. One of the CE Councillors indicated that with the reassessment of government figures these houses would not be needed.
 
HPC found it interesting to see that the principal Highways Officer on the project had no idea where some of the roads were around this development. This included main roads and their names. The Officer wasn't able to answer questions about the pedestrian crossings, which CEC tell us is why they pulled the applications last time, so this was surprising.
 
So what have they actually passed? Are the committee really aware of the correct information? There was much use of the term "Council experts" but HPC feel large sections of the information and presentation were misleading, and disappointed that they challenged the independent professional assessments carried out by HPC and others.
 
HPC feel 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, which is located close to the transport connectivity, shops and leisure facilities which these people require. HPC think Cheshire East has spent too much time frittering nearly £250k on the failed re-development of Macclesfield Town Centre, at a time when high street retail is on the decline. This time and money would have been better spent on making available unused shops and the rooms above for apartments, and living space, bringing the people back into the town, rather than continuing with the destruction of green fields, to satisfy the Local Plan, which has been titled by some as a "developer charter".
 
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, 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 also ask the Education Department and the local school governors to make available a detailed plan of action to indicate where local children will be educated.

You can hear the full proceedings on Cheshire East's own website here