SECRETARY of State Eric Pickles offered a glimmer of hope to rural Cheshire communities swamped by housing schemes when he attended a conference in Chester.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is struggling to resist planning applications, fearing it would lose on appeal and incur huge costs because it hasn’t identified five years’ housing supply as required by the Regional Spatial Strategy since 2003.

Communities in Tattenhall, Tarporley, Farndon and Malpas have all felt under siege from developers.

Mr Pickles, Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), praised Cheshire West for accelerating the process of adopting an up-to-date Local Plan so the local authority can wrest back control of the planning system.

And the no-nonsense minister, speaking to The Chronicle at a conference of Cheshire and Wirral Conservatives in Christleton, says all regional strategies will be abolished by Easter.

He said: “Just before Christmas I announced the abolition of the eastern area, the week before last I did Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West will be done very soon. All the regional spatial strategies should have gone by Easter.”

He added: “Once they have their Local Plan, and they have accelerated their Local Plan on both sides of Cheshire, then they will get protection from predatory developers.

“The problem they’ve got now is each application is taken on its individual merits not within a plan. So once they’ve got that, and that’s fairly soon, that will have a material effect.”

The Tattenhall community has felt inundated with housing applications, amounting to potentially hundreds of extra homes, some of which were refused at committee but are being appealed by the developers.

Council leader Mike Jones, visiting Handley Parish Council, said his authority was not far off identifying the five years’ housing supply needed to resist inappropriate applications.

He said: “We only need another few hundred houses to get planning permission over the next few months and we are pretty well there and then we can have an argument with the planning inspectors to which hopefully we can stop all these being overturned on appeal.

“Then as we put more through, because the Local Plan will be published with the land allocation around April or May for consultation, that will actually release a whole lot of land for development and that will then give us the five years’ supply absolutely.”