CHESHIRE East Council has denied objectors’ claims there is a conflict of interest if the strategic planning board approves the 225-homes Longridge scheme.

The controversial Knutsford application is due to be considered on Wednesday.

But objectors say Cheshire East would have to sell a parcel of council-owned land to provide access for the site if planning permission is granted so, they argue, there is a conflict of interest.

The matter has been referred to in the planning officer’s report due to go to this week’s meeting.

Knutsford Guardian: The meeting will take place on Wednesday at Macclesfield Town HallThe meeting will take place on Wednesday at Macclesfield Town Hall (Image: Google)

In the report the officer states: “There is a narrow strip of land that extends the full extent of the western boundary of the site allocation, parallel to Longridge.

"This land is owned by Cheshire East Council but is subject to a restrictive covenant which states that the land should be kept and maintained as open space…

“It is understood that there are in excess of 50 interested parties to the covenant.”

It continues: “Having obtained extensive legal advice on this matter, which was tested and re-tested, it became clear to the council there was (and is) no realistic prospect of achieving a principal means of access across the land affected by the covenant.

“There has been a suggestion there is a conflict of interest with the planning application because part of the site relates to council-owned land.

“The suggestion is the council are set to benefit financially from the granting of planning permission as they intend to sell the covenanted land referred to above, as well as a parcel of protected open space, in the event planning permission is granted.”

But the report states the local planning authority is separate from the council in that it ‘independently determines the merits of planning applications in the context of legal requirements, planning policy… irrespective of land ownership.”

It adds: “This is particularly relevant where the council is itself the applicant or landowner, which is not uncommon. For these reasons, there is no conflict of interest.”

More than 330 objectors have written to the council opposing the application from Dewscope Ltd, which has been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officers, despite an acknowledgement it will destroy part of a recently designated Local Wildlife Site.

The officers also say the proposal for the site east of Longridge would 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 officers argue, the harm the scheme would cause is outweighed by its benefits.

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