A GROUP of Mereheath Park residents have voiced concerns over the addition of an extra area of green belt land in Knutsford’s local plan.

The 20 residents, who live on the estate, have written to the Guardian with concerns over the land to the north of the town centre.

They have pointed out that the site, referred to by Cheshire East Council as ‘site Knutsford 2’, includes not only sites B, C and E of the draft strategy but now includes land – about five hectares – north of site C, which was not consulted on in the draft plan.

The group said: “We all acknowledge the need to accommodate young families and the elderly and to provide more good quality housing in Knutsford. But the published Development Strategy simply does not add up.

“The document states the requirements for Knutsford between 2010 and 2030 to be 16 hectares of housing land – 400 new homes at 25 homes per hectare – and 10 hectares of employment land.

“That is a total of 26 hectares. Of this requirement, the document identifies six hectares of employment land at Parkgate. Why then does the development strategy go on to earmark huge swathes of green belt land, including 50 hectares of green belt to the north of the sports clubs of the town for housing and employment uses.

“To earmark a massive 50 hectares of northern green belt for housing and employment is not only unnecessarily excessive but also at odds with the council’s stated objectives for Knutsford.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones called for a renewal of the ‘Brownfield First Policy’ to protect Cheshire East’s green fields.

“Cheshire East is a green and pleasant land, and I understand and fully support the strong community desire to keep it this way,” he said.

“However, it is for this very reason that developers see Cheshire East as the most desirable place to build and sell houses.

“However development is a necessary reality if we are to keep Cheshire East a desirable and economically-vibrant place to live and work.

“It is heartening to note that a common trend emerging through the Draft Development Strategy is that residents recognise too that we must grow in order to thrive.

“Developing greenfield sites can be seen by developers as the easy option.

“Cheshire East does not support this approach, and our draft development strategy proposes green field swaps and a wider green space strategy underlining our commitment to greenfield development.

“Time and time again I hear from residents that there is more brownfield land available, and I want to make it very clear that we support the development of these brownfield sites. Protecting the greenfields of Cheshire East is a number one priority for me, and I will stand by that commitment.”

The consultation ends in February 26.