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Green belt sites come under fire from residents at town meeting
KNUTSFORD Town Council has listed ‘seven principles’ it wants to see implemented in the town as part of the borough council-led town strategy.
A meeting was held on Tuesday, February 19 in the Jubilee Rooms on Stanley Road, where the council formed its official response to Cheshire East Council’s Knutsford Town Strategy.
The strategy, which could see 400 homes as well as office development being built over the next 20 years, is being formed to ensure the town is protected from unscrupulous developers.
But the areas of development highlighted by the council – on green belt to the north of the town – have not gone down well with some residents.
The session was attended by more than 20 residents, who were offered the opportunity to give their opinion to the council before it submitted its response to the consultation which ended last night, Tuesday.
After a lengthy discussion – that lasted more than two hours – councillors formed a list of seven items that it would like to see considered when the borough authority had formed its vision for the town.
Some of the suggestions included moving Egerton Primary School to free up space in the centre of the town, keeping Knutsford Sports Club where it is and supporting the Middlewich rail link to Crewe.
Clr Peter Raynes said the council should not be shy about asking for further changes to the plan.
“But if Cheshire East does not have a credible plan then the national government will reject it,” he said.
Clr Stewart Gardiner said: “I’m somewhat disappointed by the decision of the primary authority to stick everything in one location.”
He was not convinced that the level of development in the north of Knutsford was acceptable.
Clr Tony Dean said he would like to see the planners consult – and implement – the existing Knutsford Town Plan first before deciding on anything, while Clr Peter Coan suggested a new medical centre could be built on the existing British Red Cross site on Northwich Road.
Town Mayor Clr Vivien Davies said she could not understand why Wilmslow, a much larger town, had been allocated the same number of homes (400) as Knutsford.
“We will have to have some development in the town, and in some areas it is needed, especially housing for the young and poorer people of the town,” she said.
“People want to see the infrastructure in place before the housing as the present schools, medical services, transport will not accommodate the new people.”
Knutsford Town Council’s priority list:.
- Question on draft strategy – It is not clear how the final figure of 400 houses has been derived. We accept the need for limited growth, but note this is the same number as Wilmslow, a much larger town. The council would appreciate clarification of the selection criteria for the north west Knutsford area in response to residents’ questions.
- North west Knutsford development – The council does not believe the location of all homes in one green belt site is optimal. We would request a meeting to discuss alternative distribution to reduce the detrimental impact such a large single development would have on the character of the town. We see no need for shops, pubs, places of worship and community uses (other than sporting facilities), we believe this would be seriously detrimental to the established town centre, which is easily accessible from the site. However, it may be appropriate for a school or medical centre to be located in this area. The current proposal takes 40 hectares out of the green belt for housing (not including the protected sports facilities). This suggests a site of 15 hectares is ample to deliver the housing even at 25 hectares. The 40-hectare land take should be radically reduced.
- Holistic development of Knutsford – Consideration should be given to specific property swaps, for example moving Egerton School or other facilities to the north west site and use these sites for sustainable town centre housing. The housing mix should reflect identified needs of the local population. A blank percentage of affordable housing does not cover this need in adequate detail, and we wish to meet to agree more detailed allocation based on specific needs (eg shared equity housing or sheltered housing). The Parkgate extension is considered acceptable if highway access is improved.
- Community infrastructure levy – The town council would like to see the significant majority of any CIL monies spent on projects to benefit residents. The Town Plan Action document lists the town’s agreed priorities. The Draft Local Plan refers to the need for improved sports facilities, we support this and would commend bids from the local sports clubs.
- Travel and highways – Enhancing transport links from the town should be a priority, and the council wishes to support the rail link to Middlewich and Crewe, providing direct access to the wider national network. A clear travel and traffic plan for the town is needed to ensure that additional development does not result in excessive congestion.
- Environment – The council wants to ensure that developments include measures to enhance the natural environment. We hope to see extensive use of hedgerows, trees, ponds and the avoidance of wild life barriers.
- Health care facilities – The council wishes to emphasise the need for health care facilities to serve Knutsford and the surrounding areas.