A RESIDENTS’ group opposing the borough council’s sale of a playing field at Higher Downs has called into question an ongoing consultation into the issue.

Cheshire East Council is currently asking for comments on its plans to dispose of the open green space in order to build an access road to the local plan-approved 225-home development opposite the Longridge estate.

Also advertised for disposal is a covenanted grass verge along the eastern edge of the Longridge road – the western boundary of the local plan site.

The Knutsford Residents of Over Ward (KROW) group, which has opposed the sale from the outset, is now calling on the council to enforce its own local plan, keeping the development within the pre-approved boundaries and not encroaching on public space.

Jeff Gazzard, KROW chairman, said: “We support the proposal to build here only within these boundaries. This site is ideal for a mix of key worker homes, social housing, affordable homes and market-priced homes.

“We would expect all infrastructure issues to be addressed as the site goes through the planning system including local air quality, flood risk, site contamination and public transport provision, with the highest possible sustainability targets for buildings and access.

“What we cannot support is any gaming of the planning system by any part of the hierarchy involved to break out of this pocket of land for any reason whatsoever.

“We are dumbstruck that an agreed Local Plan scheme, which must be deliverable to get approval, has almost overnight become ‘landlocked’ and needs yet more green belt leisure or open space to be sold.”

KROW and Knutsford Town Council have both offered to help research and understand the covenant, in order to try and overturn it and stop the need to sell the playing field.

CEC cabinet members agreed that as little as four per cent of the playing field could be sold off to developer Dewscope in order to create the access road.

Information on the CEC consultation is available on the ‘public notices’ page towards the back of this week’s Guardian, and online at cheshireeast.gov.uk until December 15. Search for ‘land at Longridge, Knutsford’.

A CEC statement said: “The housing site has been allocated within the local plan and is one of a number of sites across the borough, where much-needed new homes could be built to meet the council’s housing target.

“Should the council agree to the disposal of open space following this consultation, the developer would then be required to submit a planning application for consideration as this is a separate process.

"It is believed that the proposed housing scheme could help to contribute to the regeneration of the Longridge estate and substantially increase the amount of open space in the area for the benefit of the people of Knutsford.”

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