Controversial outline plans for 1,570 houses in Ellesmere Port’s countryside off Ledsham Road, Little Sutton have been approved despite the anger of neighbouring residents.

More than 50 people packed Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee, meeting in Chester despite objections, to see councillors back the company’s resubmitted application at Sutton New Hall Farm.

There were shouts of ‘disgraceful’ from the public gallery as permission was granted for the scheme, with five votes in favour, two against and two abstentions, following a heated meeting.

The development by the Flintshire based homebuilder, which will be phased over 18 years, includes up to 400sq m of retail floor space for a local shop, a new primary school, a community building, a new park, playing fields and other public open space, new allotments and new accesses and streets.

The council has identified the site as capable of delivering up to 1,500 homes in its yet to be approved local plan, due to come into force next year. It has also recently accepted the borough does not have the five years’ housing supply it requires by law.

Yet in the summer, Redrow saw its plans for 2,000 homes in the same area unanimously refused by the committee despite planning officers recommending approval.

Councillors raised concerns about new build in the open countryside, the loss of farmland and increased traffic.

That application is now the subject of an appeal by Redrow.

And just five months later the picture has changed.

This puzzled Graham Phipp, of the Ledsham and Manor Action Group, who told the committee: “The planning application only differs in one respect from the previous one that was unanimously rejected by the June 2013 strategic planning committee on many grounds, particularly land quality, traffic and prematurity and that is the number of dwellings has been reduced from 2,000 to in the region of 1,500.

Resident Graham Phipp says the draft local plan considerably overstates the housing need
Resident Graham Phipp says the draft local plan considerably overstates the housing need
 

“This does not materially alter our views or the views of other residents and should not change the decision of the strategic planning committee either.”

He argued the draft local plan ‘considerably overstates the housing need’ and is ‘aspirational’ rather than being based on demographic projections.

Labour committee member Cllr David Armstrong, who abstained, told the meeting the government’s pro-development planning regime meant it was difficult to resist applications.

“We live with the law this government has given us and it’s a very troubling decision to take,” he suggested.

A proposal to refuse the application by Cllr Ben Powell (Lab, St Paul’s), backed by colleague St Paul’s councillor Angela Claydon (Lab) was defeated.

Tory chief whip Cllr Mark Williams (Dodleston and Huntington) successfully moved approval by arguing the plan was not premature, featured in the draft local plan and was sustainable.

Cllr Gareth Anderson

Cllr Gareth Anderson (Con, Ledsham and Manor) says he feels ‘heartbroken’ and believes a great many residents will feel the same way too.

Cllr Gareth Anderson
Cllr Gareth Anderson

“Six months ago, all of our hard work paid off as we convinced the committee to refuse Redrow’s plans by 8 votes to nil.

“Last night, however, only two councillors of the nine voted to refuse this dreadful application, a turnaround that I cannot fathom.

“I am grateful to Councillors Ben Powell and Angela Claydon for proposing and voting for refusal.

“I am sorry that I was not able to convince more to join them,” he said on his website.

Cllr Anderson says he is ‘so proud of the incredible work done by a phenomenal number of Ledsham and Manor residents over the last 15+ years, and during the last two years in particular’.

“The fact that over 3,200 people signed the petition is testament to how committed people were to protecting the last remaining farm in Ellesmere Port.

“ The hundreds who were actively involved in one way or another via the Ledsham and Manor Action Group (LAMAG) all helped enormously in presenting probably the most professional and compelling case I have ever seen residents make to planning in my 12 years as a councillor,” he added.

“Special mention must go to Graham Phipp and Graham Penness, the co-chairmen of LAMAG.

“They have led the charge against Redrow with spirit, aplomb and a ruthless vigour which few people could ever hope to match.”

Ledsham and Manor Action Group

The Action Group describe the decision as a ‘stitch up’ and comment:“How could the decision be different when so little has changed?

“This is a bad day for the residents of Little Sutton and the Green Lane area of Great Sutton, democracy in general and our local authority’s planning processes.

“It is a bad day for democracy as the views of local residents have been totally ignored.

“The local authority have shown scant regard for their views on their neighbourhood development, their values and the impact on their quality of life and ignored totally LAMAG’s measured and well argued points.”

The group believes the development is ‘urban sprawl at its worst’.

It points out approval was recommended by the Conservative party whip ‘and it was he who proposed the motion to approve the application supported then by the other four Conservative councillors without any valid reasons given.”

“We in Ledsham and Manor Action Group know that we could not have done any more to present our position,” it believes.

Feedback from residents

Ann Hinde, of Armthorpe Drive, Little Sutton, has lived in the road for 43 years and has taken a great deal of interest in the development.

She says the garden village would be in an area ‘fast becoming depressing’ with the prospect of a school and a community centre.

Peter Zemroch, member of the former Ellesmere Port public transport liaison committee, fears the new estate will have a severe impact on traffic congestion. The plans will put 1,000 extra cars on the road between 8am and 9am. Congestion is going to be far far worse than they predict.

Graham Penness from the Action Group says the Local Plan has not yet been tested by an inspector let alone approved by the full borough council.

Graham Phipp, also from the Action Group, objects to housing on any part of the land. He feels the huge development would change the character of Little Sutton and Great Sutton immeasurably.

David O’Reilly of Redrow said: “We have the utmost confidence in the application. The high quality development would create a new garden neighbourhood for the town.”

Cllr Justin Madders, Labour group leader in Cheshire West and Chester, Ellesmere Port Town ward councillor and Little Sutton resident feels the essential question is what is so different from the previous application.

“Very little. Far larger developments than anything else Ellesmere Port has seen in recent years. The decision should have been taken at a meeting in Ellesmere Port.”

He calls it the most significant application in the area for a generation which should have been dealt with locally.

Cllr Myles Hogg (Con, Willaston and Thornton), former strategic planning committee chairman, believes there will be traffic problems and the loss of irreplaceable farmland.

Cllr Angela Claydon (Lab, St Paul’s) pointed out the site was the last farm in Ellesmere Port and felt that after a site visit she had fallen down a rabbit hole into a wonderland where nothing was as it seemed to be. Commonsense seemed to have completely gone out of the window.