Controversial plans for a huge 2,000-home development in Little Sutton have moved a step closer to reality following a stormy council meeting last week.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has withdrawn all its objections to the Redrow proposal, which is on first class farm land at Ledsham Road, Little Sutton.

The move was slammed by Labour councillor Angela Claydon and said that by adhering to the authority’s local plan, the council had become ‘a hostage to its actions’.

The outline application, put forward at Sutton New Hall Farm, includes a shop, a new primary school, community facilities, a park, playing fields and other public open space including allotments.

A huge petition with more than 3,000 signatures was raised against the development and Redrow appealed when plans were refused last year.

The house builder’s revised plans for up to 1,570 homes were then approved, having indicated it would withdraw the appeal when legal agreements and planning permission were completed for the revised application.

But councillors have now been told the appeal is going ahead after all.

The changed circumstances follow an indication by Kevin Ward, the inspector hearing representations into the borough’s new local plan, that he believes a development of ‘up to’ 2,000 homes on the land would be acceptable.

The strategic planning committee was told ‘considerable weight’ needed to be given to the emerging local plan and two of the three reasons for refusal, including the loss of agricultural land, could not be defended.

Fears about traffic along Wetherby Way were left as the only remaining obstacle, but Mr Ward did not believe there was sufficient technical evidence for the council to defend the appeal on that point.

The late report outlining the position was listed at a meeting of the committee last week as an ‘urgent item of business’.

Outspoken St Paul’s councillor Angela Claydon (Lab) told the committee: “I am totally appalled. There is nobody here to represent themselves.

“Redrow made a promise in this room that if the application for 1,500 houses was approved they would withdraw this appeal. Many councillors were persuaded by that.”

She claimed Redrow had kept the appeal on hold while officers were working on the legal agreement for the resubmitted application.

Suggesting the council ‘has become a hostage to its own actions,’ Cllr Claydon pointed out a majority of the Tory administration had voted for the new local plan and had rejected opposition amendments.

“This means the plan does now allocate Ledsham Road for housing despite the loss of prime agricultural land,” she said.

Traffic had been ‘a major concern’ for the thousands who signed the petition and an extra 500 properties would now be built.

Cllr Claydon added: “All over the borough people are up in arms because there are 50 houses being built and the traffic.

“This is an extra 430, it is a huge number of extra properties.”

An artist's impression of the proposed development off Ledsham Road
An artist's impression of the proposed development off Ledsham Road
 

Cllr Claydon believed ‘the health centre would be unable to cope and the roads would be unable to cope’.

Development planning manager Fiona Hore explained officers had been working ‘tirelessly’ on the legal agreement for the revised application and would continue to negotiate even if the reasons for refusal were withdrawn.

She said: “We would ask the inspector to impose conditions which we believe are necessary to make the development acceptable.”

Counsel had been asked if he would try to defend the refusal for 2,000 homes on highways grounds ‘and he was very strongly of the opinion that we didn’t have the technical evidence to defend that on appeal’.

Mrs Hore added: “That is the situation we are in. We do not feel we have the technical evidence to uphold the third reason for refusal but we would go to the appeal in a strong position to negotiate the obligations.”

Mrs Hore added objectors ‘will still have the benefit of being able to go before the inspector and put their case to him’.

Cllr Claydon still felt ‘very strongly we are getting 500 houses in through the back door. It is massive.”

Ledsham and Manor ward councillor Keith Butcher (Lab) commented: “It seems to me that this saga brings the credibility of the planning process very much into disrepute. In fact there isn’t any credibility.

“I think there is an understanding that there is a need for housing but we have given planning permission for housing on vast tracts of brownfield land and nothing has happened. Then this comes along.”

Cllr Helen Weltman (Con), the borough’s planning chairman, said: “We are where we are because of what the inspector has said.”

The recommendations were approved on a 5-4 vote.

The appeal will now be told the council does not intend to present evidence as to its first two reasons for refusal.

It will not defend its reasons for refusal on highway grounds subject to the satisfactory completion of planning obligations.