VIC Barlow asks why the number of houses planned for Cheshire East is so high and blames the council.

The culprit is central Government, which has imposed housing targets on Cheshire East as part of its regional economic policy for the north west.

The Coalition Government of 2010-15 took two important steps which has created the development pressure on Cheshire. Firstly, in 2012, they enacted the National Planning Policy Framework, which relaxed local authority planning controls in favour of development.

George Osborne and Eric Pickles were architects of the NPPF, knowing full well it would place pressure on attractive areas like Cheshire to accept more development.

Secondly, the Coalition Government established Local Economic Partnerships to promote economic growth. This quango took powers away from the local authority and local scrutiny of development plans. The Cheshire and Warrington LEP has published a Strategic Economic Plan that lays out the ambition to turn Cheshire into the ‘Surrey’ of the north, with all that implies for massive growth in employment, housing and commuting into Manchester and Liverpool.

According to the Office of National Statistics the population of Cheshire East is forecast to grow by 7.9 per cent through 2039.This is about half the rate of the rest of England, reflecting Cheshire’s rural character.

This rate of growth does not support the LEP’s ambitions, nor the DCLG policy, both of which have influenced the preparation of the Local Plan. While CEC is culpable in not resisting these pressures, its hands were tied by the DCLG-appointed inspector rejecting the Local Plan produced in 2014 because it did not include sufficient housing allocations.

Henceforth, the revised and adopted 2017 Local Plan adds housing sites that are more controversial and not needed to fulfil the natural rate of population growth but are required to meet economic growth targets.

So, the answer to Vic’s question is not to point the finger at CEC; rather his ire should be directed towards the DCLG, George Osborne and the quango LEP which have taken powers away from CEC to fulfil targets that have never been voted on by local people.

John Sutton Mobberley