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March 12, 2024

Cheshire East Council has begun to prepare a new Local Plan, which will guide development in the borough until at least 2043. This will replace the current Local Plan Strategy, which covers the period until 2030. Amongst other things this new Plan will set out how many homes are needed, and where they should be located.

How long will it take to prepare the new Plan?

The council expect to formally start work on the new Plan towards the end of 2024 before finally bringing the Plan into force in early 2028. Between those dates, there will be a number of formal consultation stages and an “examination” – essentially a public inquiry to check the Plan meets national policy and legal requirements before it is allowed to come into effect.

There is, however, quite a bit of uncertainty around that timetable. For example, later this year the government is expected to publish new regulations and guidance which will change both what Local Plans should contain and how they should be prepared. It is also quite common for Plan timetables to slip as new information comes to light, or the council changes political control, for example.

With those caveats in mind, here’s the full timetable the council are currently working to.

What are the next steps?

Over the next few months, the council will be consulting on an “Issues Paper,” outlining all the things they think the new Plan will need to take into account. Alongside the Issues Paper will be a whole range of supporting evidence dealing with specific topics.

You can find all the information here.

There will also be a “Call for Sites” exercise, where they council will ask landowners to submit details of sites that could be suitable for development. We explain more about how that works later in this post.

How many new homes will be needed?

The starting point for calculating how many new homes are needed is the government’s “standard method” – a set formula which takes into account both the expected change in the number of households and the affordability of homes. For Cheshire East, this currently suggests an average of 1,014 new homes will be needed each year – a much lower figure than the annual average of 1,800 homes which the current Local Plan Strategy aims to deliver.

The standard method is, however, just a starting point. The council could choose to plan to deliver more new homes if, for example, they thought that would help achieve economic growth objectives or to ensure more affordable homes were delivered. At this early stage, the council haven’t indicated whether they think that will be needed.

Where will those new homes be built?

The first step in deciding where those new homes will be built is to define a “settlement hierarchy.” This is done by identifying the existing range of services and facilities in every town and village, allowing a judgement to be made about which settlements are most suitable for new development.

Although the council have said they will review the settlement hierarchy as part of the new Local Plan process, it seems unlikely it will change much from the current one which identifies four different types of settlement.

Principal Towns: Crewe and Macclesfield

Key Service Centres: Alsager, Congleton, Handforth, Knutsford, Middlewich, Nantwich, Poynton, Sandbach and Wilmslow

Local Service Centres: Alderley Edge, Audlem, Bollington, Bunbury, Chelford, Disley, Goostrey, Haslington, Holmes Chapel, Mobberley, Prestbury, Shavington and Wrenbury

Other settlements and rural areas: Everywhere else.

As the two most sustainable locations for new development, the Principal Towns of Crewe and Macclesfield would expect to see the most housing growth, all things being equal. The amount of development is likely to reduce as you move down the scale with the Other Settlements being expected to deliver very few – if any – new homes each.

The total number of new homes required, though, makes it likely that almost all of the settlements in the top three tiers – the Principal Towns, the Key Service Centres and the Local Service Centres – will be expected to accommodate at least some new homes.

Other factors, including physical constraints (such as flood risk or the availability of land) and planning constraints (like the green belt) will also need to be taken into account, which might see some settlements being asked to accommodate less development than they otherwise would, with that shortfall being made up elsewhere.

Making a Call for Sites submission

To help decide where new development should be located, the council need a list of all those sites in the borough which could be suitable. That’s where the Call for Sites process comes in.

Landowners are invited to send details of their sites to the council, who will then assess it’s development potential. While submitting your site doesn’t guarantee it will be allocated for new housing, when the time comes to identify specific sites for development, the council will refer back to that list and look first to the sites that performed well in their assessment.

You’re unlikely to have an opportunity to discuss the council’s assessment of you land with them, so it's important that your submission covers all of the information the council need and paints your site in the best light possible. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That means thinking about impacts on areas like highways, ecology, landscape and trees as well as considering constraints posed by flood risk, existing services, ground conditions, topography and other physical characteristics of the land. Matters relating to how the site will actually be developed – like how the land will be drained and how many homes it could accommodate – will also need to be addressed. Often, specialist technical reports are needed to demonstrate those points.

At The Strategic Land Group, we prepare Call for Sites submissions on behalf of all our landowner partners, allowing them to benefit from our 15 years of experience in promoting sites for new housing development. In fact, we take control of the whole site promotion process, responding to all the formal consultation stages, having ad hoc meetings with the council, and attending the public inquiry at the end of the plan process. We’ll even find a developer to buy the land once planning permission is in place.

We do all of that at our own cost and risk. Our fee is a share of the value of the land once it is sold, so if we don’t succeed you don’t owe us anything. That approach also ensures are interests are aligned with yours – to secure the best possible planning permission in the shortest possible time.

If you know of a site in Cheshire East, or elsewhere, which might be suitable for new development, get in touch today for a free, no obligation consultation.

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