SELLING land off Longridge and North Downs to access a housing site would be subject to planning approval.

The assurance came from Cheshire East portfolio holder Cllr Ainsley Arnold after he approved the disposal of public open space to enable access to a site allocated for housing in the Local Plan.

Cllr Arnold is portfolio holder for housing, planning and regeneration, and approved the disposal conditional on planning approval at a meeting on Friday.

The two areas of land cover 7.5 acres, the ‘Green Land’ being 0.9 acres, a thin strip which is subject to a covenant, running parallel to Longridge.

The ‘Blue Land’ is 6.6 acres, consists of grassland and hedges and four per cent of this land would be disposed of.

Cheshire East officers say disposing of the land and developing the adjacent LPS 38 site would achieve the provision of 225 homes allocated in the Local Plan and significant public open space.

However Knutsford Residents in Over Ward (KROW) asked Cllr Ainsley not to authorise the council’s assets team to dispose of the Blue Land because it was not surplus to requirements and the disposal had not been proven to be necessary.

“Please do the decent thing and put any request for land for access entirely through the planning process,” group secretary Debbie Jamison told the meeting.

“This would show you have put residents first and demonstrate a concern for the environment.”

The land was recreational amenity land in the green belt, she said, adjacent to a wildlife site forming a green corridor.

Knutsford town clerk Adam Keppel-Green said the town council supported KROW and the wider community in its opposition to the disposal of any part of the Blue Land while the discharge of the covenant relating to the Green Land had not been fully explored.

The council received 185 comments, the main objections being that public open space contributed to social well-being and relocating such space would make it less accessible to residents.

Objectors said the land was used for recreation, including football, and was used regularly for dog walking. Most of the objections focused on the loss of the area of Blue Land.

Great Places Housing Group believed it was not necessary to dispose of and lose the public amenity of the Blue Land when access to the LPS 38 site could be gained from the Green Land, if required.

It asked Cheshire East to work with those included in the covenant to secure the Green Land as access to the development site.

An officers’ report to Friday’s meeting said: “The unusual long thin shape of the Green Land is such that it does not afford significant practical and commonly-recognised recreational use as a public open space.

“Its disposal provides an opportunity to remove a barrier between the proposed development and Longridge estate.”

The report said the small area of Blue Land would be replaced within the scheme, and the rest of the land would continue in its present use.