Cheshire Campaign to Protect Rural England

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View from the Chair

Tuesday, 02 May 2017 17:49

Andrew Needham (R) welcomes Su Sayer (2nd on R) Andrew Needham (R) welcomes Su Sayer (2nd on R) Photo: © CPRE Cheshire

Andrew Needham Chair of CPRE Cheshire writes on Green Belt release and other issues in the latest edition of Cheshire Viewpoint.

In our last edition we reported on an important meeting with Su Sayer CPRE Chairman. This covered the issue of ‘exceptional’ and ‘very special circumstances’ for Green Belt release. There have been some developments: William Wragg, MP for Stockport (Hazel Grove constituency), asked in the Commons for an assurance that “the Green Belt is safe with this government”. The PM replied as follows:

“I am very happy to give that commitment to my honourable friend. The Government is very clear that the Green Belt must be protected. We are very clear that boundaries should only be altered when local authorities have fully examined all other reasonable options, and if they do go down that route then they should compensate by improving the quality or accessibility of the remaining Green Belt land so that that can be enjoyed. I know the particular issue my honourable friend has raised. I believe the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework did lead to quite a number of responses. There was a lot of interest in that consultation; it closed last month and I’m sure all views will be taken into account.” In fact this is a reference to a review of Green Belt boundaries.
I put this comment on the CPRE planning website:

Andrew Needham Cheshire. The PM is referring to the exceptional circumstances for a review of Green Belt boundaries. However, without a review, it is possible for a planning application to succeed under the concept of ‘very special circumstances’.

Here in Cheshire, the Kings School application to build a new school on Green Belt land, financed by building housing on the school’s existing two sites (one of which is in the Green Belt) was not called in by the Secretary of State. This was despite the fact that a total area of over 80 acres of Green Belt would be impacted, and that no very special circumstances have been demonstrated beyond the school’s own business case.

In most cases, the response to whether a case should be called in will be the following wording:

“The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against the call-in policy. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.”

Jackie Copley, Planning Manager for CPRE Lancashire, replied:

“The Government is very clever at saying it protects the Green Belt, then requiring the local authorities to plan for excessive numbers and allowing brownfield to be excluded for viability reasons. Local authorities have little option but to release Green Belt. But it isn’t a matter for Government but local Councils, says the Government.”

More and Better Use of Brownfield : The Government has already piloted a new set of open data standards for publishing information about brownfield land suitable for housing. Over 70 authorities took part in the pilot and the majority have now published their ‘brownfield registers’. Local authorities will be required to prepare and maintain these registers from this spring. This will ensure that nationally consistent information on suitable brownfield sites is kept up to date and made publicly available for communities and developers.

Spatial Frameworks for Greater Manchester & Liverpool City Regions: With CPRE Lancashire, we have responded to the consultation - and engaged with mayoral candidates. They will elected on May 4th, and there will be a full report on the implications for Cheshire at our AGM on 17 May.

Farming and landscape post Brexit: I attended an important conference organised by CPRE Shropshire - and intend to promote these issues on our stand at the Cheshire Show.

Trustees: We are very sad to lose Roger Parkin, Cheshire Branch member for over 20 years, Trustee, active volunteer, Vice President and former Branch Chairman. Both in his capacity as Parish Councillor and through his work for CPRE, Roger was heavily involved in promoting and encouraging the improvement, protection and preservation of the countryside. Chester was his main interest, but he also actively supported the work of the charity throughout Cheshire, and regularly represented the Branch, alongside the Chairman, at CPRE’s North West Regional Group meetings. Roger will be sorely missed by his colleagues, not just for his contribution, but also his company and friendship. He did a great deal for his local community and his guidance, wisdom and support will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

We would like to appoint a like-minded person to join our Board. Please contact Debbie Janney in the Branch Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the first instance.

Andrew Needham, Chairman
Spring 2017

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Misty sunrise over the Trent and Mersey Canal, Middlewich