2015 April: Cheadle Unite - Community Brief Part 1
Get ready for a flood of housing development around Cheadle.
More road congestion open spaces taken from us
less space in our schools doctors and dentists.
Cheadle Housing a brief History
Back in early 2010 Residents around Cheadle presented SMDC with around 300-400 representations against large scale housing development (1320 dwellings = 26% swell) around Cheadle. Road improvements were in effect abandoned (too costly). Cheadle Unite was formed by residents to address the disproportionate amount of housing allocated to Cheadle, given our limited capacity to expand, particularly relevant while the regeneration of the Potteries was and is struggling with huge numbers of sites lying derelict around existing proven infrastructure (Road, Rail Drainage etc).
At that time our representations were successful after meeting the then Housing Minister John Healey (Lab) and through talks, Cheadle Unite and Councillors had our housing allocation reduced. Stoke-on-Trent and the Potteries agreeing to take on more housing, identified as helping focus regeneration around the Potteries. This was agreed under the then Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which linked our Staffordshire Moorlands, the Potteries and Newcastle-Under-Lyme in a strategy that as the name implied covered a region. We did have to allow for some housing development and the only region that was relatively non-contentious was unfortunately Area 1 (Cheadle North near JCB) which secured the highest sustainability score. This would have at the time effectively given us adequate housing through to 2031, without the need for site allocations and any further development spread around Cheadle.
In May 2010 the change of government abolished the RSS when they introduced the Localism Act. This, as presented, would apparently allow local communities to influence planning decisions. However the early signs were not good. A number of articles have been published regarding the Localism Act. An early example from the Guardian (Sept 2011) has already been circulated, web link below (links to more articles are attached at the end):
To summarise, the act is very pro development and does little to nothing to benefit Local communities who may wish, for example, to restrict expansion. Further, it puts very little resistance to planning in place with huge areas of green fields and valuable countryside now at threat.
In 2013, a planning inspector reviewed our housing allocation (allowing developers to be heard, despite having not presented any previous representations) and re-introduced our additional 500 housing allocation taking guidance from the National Planning Policy which factors in the Localism Act. Further, he removed references to the need for road improvements in the main documentation setting a path to allow further development while there was a known need for road improvements for the town as far back as 1999.
With the re-introduction of 500 dwellings and given the way housing provision is now conveniently counted (land allocated e.g. Area 1 but without a planning application can be ignored) SMDC are able to claim we don’t have 5 years housing provision. This entitles developers to propose development anywhere they can secure purchase of land.
Our understanding is that Government was getting flack for stating housing levels for each region when the Localism Act was introduced, as that in fact, gave a direct link between housing allocation misery and set figures presented by a Government that needs electing every so often. So Government changed their tact, suggesting local councils only need to provide housing for which there is a demand. However in parallel, Government offers Councils that take on housing a financial reward. The New Homes Bonus scheme rewards councils by matching 6 years council tax income from central government. There is no constraint on where (or who) the money is spent. Guidance is given in determining housing
demand, but this is rather nebulous and only requires the District Council to show evidence of demand via a report produced for them. In restricting housing development, SMDC should fare well under this scheme as our population demand is falling, figures as late as 2012 (ONS: Sub National Population Projection) show a drop in demand. Further our Neighbouring Potteries is struggling to attract development on many Brownfield sites.
However councils are only required to have some form of dialogue e.g. with neighbouring councils (S-o-T), little robust evidence appears to suffice. They are also allowed to present a range of housing demand figures. They can however also factor in national figures.
The need for increased housing is made up of longer living, separated couples and migration. Migration is likely to be the most significant factor here. Such figures are difficult to come by, but Oxford University did a study only last month and by their figures since 2011 the Migration Population rose by 565,000 in the UK. Where will they live?
The Current migration trend is unlikely to be a focus for the current Government as it is estimated that the vast majority of our current headline GDP recovery is in fact a consequence of more people in the UK. When measured per capita (per person) it is in fact much poorer, but this figure isn’t referenced.
The transition to the new National Planning Policy / Localism Act is almost complete.
The Government and or SMDC may claim there was some form of consultation on the process but we do not agree with this. SMDC have produced a Statement of Community Involvement. This is apparently our opportunity to be involved in implementing the Localism Act. But its framework and introduction has been pushed through without proper consultation with the community.
In March 2014 Cheadle Unite received an opportunity to comment on the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). We responded on a tight 6 week deadline and asked for a number of things including:
Engagement with the Potteries Councils
Transparency on Drivers and Motivators in SMDC
Despite being told we would be informed if our points were accepted or rejected, we were not.
On 5th March 2015 we received an email indicating that they had adopted the new strategy way back in Dec 2014 and we had from 13th Jan to 13th April 2015 to object (I.e. only 5½ weeks left) and our objection path was via the high court, claiming that the adoption had been posted on the website on the 13th of Jan. When in fact we were only notified on the 5th of March and the adopted document was loaded on the site on that day.
Given this is supposed to set out a new interaction framework with local communities; you might expect an extra level of consultation with residents. However they let very few know, as can be seen from the total number of responses they received (15 in total) and present us with the high court if we aren’t happy as our only comeback.
To give you a flavour of SMDCs SCI, in the future, previous representations are no longer taken into account and when asked how consultation in line with the SCI has taken place since its introduction regarding planning approvals for Brookhouses we have been informed that they don’t in effect have to carry out the consultation themselves, they accept consultation has taken place if the developer presents them with paperwork to say it has happened!
So to summarise: Our housing allocation is set by SMDC who gain financially for every home built, can claim we don’t have 5 years housing provision and has only to give us very little say in such matters. If we want to complain we have to do it every time there is an application. Further SMDC supply Planning Officers to support Developers in presenting a case to the Planning Committee. Residents do not receive any support from SMDC to make a counter claim.
For Part 2 including Frequently Asked Questions Click Here
1320 Houses/Dwellings Still Planned for Cheadle250 Houses In Cheadle North East 190 Houses NOW Applied for In Cheadle East
26%+ Swell in Our Population Planned in 12 years 441 In Urban Sites Around Cheadle 200 Properties on Small Urban Extensions