CONTROVERSIAL plans to build up to 225 homes in Knutsford and destroy part of a recently designated Local Wildlife Site have been recommended for approval despite more than 330 objections.

Cheshire East’s planning officers admit the proposal for land east of Longridge would also result in inappropriate development in the green belt.

This is because a proportion of the application site – a parcel of land to the north-east and another to the south-west – extends beyond the land allocated for development in Cheshire East’s local plan.

But the council’s planners say the harm the scheme would cause is outweighed by its benefits.

Knutsford Guardian: The meeting will take place at Macclesfield Town HallThe meeting will take place at Macclesfield Town Hall (Image: Google)A report from the council's planning officer due to go next week’s meeting of the strategic planning board, states: “Very special circumstances will not exist unless the potential harm to the green belt by reason of inappropriateness… is clearly outweighed by other considerations.

“In this instance, the other considerations are that the development would result in 30 per cent affordable dwellings where there is an identified need.”

It continues: “Finally, but most importantly, substantial weight is afforded to the delivery of an allocated site and the associated benefits it would bring.

“It is deemed that these benefits represent very special circumstances that clearly outweigh the harm identified.”

Campaigners have long been fighting development of the land, which has become a treasured nature reserve.

Most of the application site was removed from the green belt in 2017 as part of the Cheshire East Local Plan.  Dewscope Ltd submitted the proposal to build the homes in 2021.

Since then the land has been designated a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) and part of it is also now officially Designated Ancient Woodland.

Among the objectors are the Cheshire Wildlife Trust who say the proposal will have a significant impact on the LWS.

The council’s planners say substantial weight has been afforded to the loss of much of the recently designated LWS.

But the planning officer states: “The LWS status was afforded to the site post allocation [as a local plan site]…. As such, it would go against the principles of the development plan should it be concluded the development of this site should be avoided.”

The list of objections from Knutsford Town Council, residents and campaign groups is lengthy.

Among the many reasons for their objections are the argument there is no exceptional circumstances for the use of green belt and local green space land.

They also say the proposal is contrary to wildlife policies in the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan, including high habitat distinctiveness and wildlife corridor, and the loss of green space will impact physical and mental health.

Numerous highways concerns have also been raised and objectors also refer to the lack of infrastructure to support growth including doctors, dentists and schools.

The application, which is in outline and also includes the provision of a community building as well as matters of access, is recommended for approval subject to a S106 agreement and conditions.

The strategic planning board meeting takes place at 10am at Macclesfield Town Hall on Wednesday, December 20.