CHESHIRE East councillors overturned planners’ recommendations and refused a controversial Wilmslow application after saying they felt the council had ‘tied their hands behind their backs’.

The council’s planners had recommended the committee approve a scheme  for 34 retirement living apartments at Holly Road South - just three months after an identical proposal was refused on the same site.

Churchill has already appealed against that February refusal but, if the committee had approved the re-submitted application on Wednesday – which included a £240,000 contribution towards affordable housing not previously offered – that appeal would not go ahead.

But angry councillors refused the re-submitted scheme.

Many at Wednesday’s meeting had not been on the committee when February’s decision was taken.  They believed that committee should have included several more reasons for refusal – including the size of the three-storey building and its overbearing  impact on neighbours.

They also weren’t happy two of the three reasons given for that original refusal – lack of parking and lack of affordable housing contribution– had since been removed by the chief executive using urgency powers.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Stewart GardinerCllr Stewart Gardiner (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Stewart Gardiner (Knutsford, Con) said: “I feel that we, as a committee, are being asked to make a decision with our hands tied behind our backs."

He described the contribution recently offered for affordable housing as ‘miserly’ and ‘criminal’, saying Churchill would make a massive profit from such a scheme in Wilmslow,

“I am very, very concerned about the message this is sending to people across Cheshire East, not only to our residents whose amenity we are here to protect but also to prospective developers who think, well if Churchill got away with why can’t we,” said Cllr Gardiner.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Ken EdwardsCllr Ken Edwards (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Bollington councillor Ken Edwards (Lab) said the mass and height of the building would dominate other accommodation in the area and he also raised concerns about parking.

Churchill is providing 16 places for 34 flats, arguing most residents would be more than 80 and not have cars. This was countered by councillors saying future residents were more likely to have health needs and where would emergency services park.

Knutsford councillor Tony Dean (Con) told the committee:  “I’ve never seen it before, where the chief executive’s made a decision for us effectively - which I didn’t even know was allowed, but apparently it is.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Tony DeanCllr Tony Dean (Image: Cheshire East Council)

"And, when we’re not allowed to come here fettered by predetermination, we've come to this one fettered by something the chief executive has done and by previous committee’s decisions.”

He said he would test the feeling by proposing approval of the scheme. No-one would second it.

Planning officer Paul Wakefield repeatedly told the committee if they refused permission for this then the appeal against the February refusal would go ahead at the end of this month – and the council couldn’t defend it.

Poynton councillor Michael Beanland (Con) said: “I do feel sorry for the officers but I do agree with a colleague’s comments that we have today arrived with a fettered determination.

“I do feel there’s a problem with this development. It is massive and it is overbearing on neighbouring properties and I just can’t understand why those reasons were not used in the previous application.”

Cllr Gardiner pointed out an inspector at appeal would look at the whole proposal, including things the council might have not addressed satisfactorily.

“We, as a committee, shouldn’t be forced to make a decision we can’t agree with,” he said.

He proposed the application be refused on the grounds of inadequate parking, the design and the impact on the amenity of residential properties.

Five councillors voted for refusal, three voted against and one abstained so the application was refused.