Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Planning and Value.

I was confronted with a sobering thought last night whilst speaking with the planning officer who will deal with one of our imminent applications. I had met with his ecology and conservation officers colleagues last summer as we embarked upon a masterplanning process and I put it to the officer that we had never actually received any feedback on our proposition. "You won't do now", came the response. "They've both got the boot".
This is sobering for two reasons. Firstly, of course, one feels for the officers who have lost their jobs. Secondly, though, it is sobering to think that a large Metropolitan Borough has no ecological or conservation resource.
The project that we are working has at it's heart a feature of ecological and heritage value and there is an opportunity to enhance this value as part of our proposition. We are working to identify all of the parties (public, private and voluntary) who might help with realising this potential, but if maximum benefit from this proect is to be taken, and more importantly sustained, it will need to be led by the Borough Council.
The Council in question will no doubt be committing funds at a strategic level to projects of ecological and heritage value, but it seems short-sighted not to recognise the role of planning in tying different strategic themes together and having people in place to actually get things done.
I suppose though that the benefits of projects like ours are largely is intangible, whereas the cost of those two officers is all to easy to calculate.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

How committed is Cheshire East Council to it's Development Plan?

I highlighted in a tweet recently that Cheshire East Council, £132.3m in debt, owns or part owns seven of the strategic sites identified in it's Draft Development Strategy, including the proposed new settlement at East Handforth.

The Council has stated that as part of a wider approach to developing the economy it will directly promote employment and housing growth through the development of Council assets and land. This approach is logically enough given the Council's financial plight, but it is important that those Council assets and land are identified through the development plan process as being the most appropriate sites for development relative to other options.

It's interesting to see, therefore, that the Council is seeking a Development Executive to become Chief Executive designate of wholly Council-owned company that will be established to deliver "a number of strategic sites as well as two brand new settlements".

When confirming recently that Cheshire East Council is to take legal action to try to overturn the granting at appeal of planning permission for 200 homes on the outskirts of Congleton, Council Leader Michael Jones stated that:

"...we need to ensure developments are planned properly after listening to local people – and that they reinforce, rather than undermine, our Local Plan, based on a vision that we can all agree".

Councillor Jones clearly expects the development community to respect the development plan process, but I wonder whether the development community can expect the same of the Council?