KNUTSFORD Town Council is to make a formal complaint to Cheshire East Council over the way the proposed sale of land at Longridge has been handled.

In October 2018 Cheshire East portfolio holder Cllr Ainsley Arnold approved the disposal, conditional on planning approval, of public open space to enable access to a site allocated for housing in the Local Plan.

The two areas cover 7.5 acres, ‘Green Land’ of 0.9 acres, a thin strip running parallel to Longridge and subject to a covenant, and Blue Land’ of 6.6 acres, consisting of grassland and hedges, with four per cent of this land set to be disposed of.

Cheshire East officers said disposing of the land and developing the adjacent LPS38 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.

Knutsford town clerk Adam Keppel-Green said at the time the town council supported KROW and the 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.

In June 2019 the council wrote to the new leader of Cheshire East asking for a review of the decision, and in October town mayor Cllr Andrew Malloy and the clerk meet deputy leader Cllr Craig Browne and the head of the assets department to discuss the issue.

A report to Monday’s town council meeting said Cheshire East told the town council in April: “[Cheshire East] council has undertaken a fresh review of the current position to determine if the current proposal is still the correct course of action to deal with this matter.

“The conclusion to this exercise is that the proposal remains the correct course of action to deal with this matter.”

The report added: “Cheshire East said it had obtained ‘new, additional, professional and legal advice on this matter’, but was unable to share it with the town council even on a confidential basis.

“At July’s town council meeting it was agreed to ask the appropriate Cheshire East Council scrutiny committee to look into the matter.

“Cheshire East Council said it could not be considered by a scrutiny committee as the matter was ‘too narrow and amounts more to a complaint rather than a policy issue’.”

Cllr Neil Forbes said: “This affair has been going on for a very long time.

“We have got to the end of the line now, and should formalise a complaint to Cheshire East about the whole way this has been progressing, and the whole lack of transparency, going all the way back to the different meetings we have had with Cheshire East officers and leaders over the years.

“The only way forward now is to get a formal complaint in, helped by all the people who have attended the different sorts of meetings over the years, which includes KROW.

“Only then can we get Cheshire East to investigate it properly and impartially.”

Cllr James McCulloch said the issue was causing a ‘great deal of upset and distress’ to Longridge residents, and people needed openness and transparency about the future, not ‘obfuscation’.

Cllr Peter Coan said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that we are being shrouded in secrecy and obfuscation.

“It is not right that we are just fobbed off, and I would urge all the ward councillors to work with KROW to formulate a complaint to try and get this issue resolved as soon as we possibly can for the benefit of the people who live in this locale and use this public open space more and more

“We want to preserve this as a public amenity and not have it built on. It has never been used so much in my lifetime.

“It’s so pleasing to see, and I would hate this to be lost. I hope we can all work together and try and get the answers we all demand.”

Councillors voted unanimously on |Monday to lodge a complaint with Cheshire East Council, with the exception of Cllrs Stewart Gardiner and Quentin Abel, who are Cheshire East councillors and abstained.