Councillors Dalzell, Johnson, Lowe, and Mears.
B Allen (Planning and Facilities Officer)
In the absence of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, the committee resolved to elect Cllr Dalzell as chairman of the meeting.
PL23/027 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies were received from Cllrs Coan, Banks, and Gray (personal business) and McCulloch (personal business noting a prejudicial interest in application 21/3100M).
PL23/028 DECLARATIONS OF MEMBERS’ INTERESTS
No declarations of interest were made.
PL23/029 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Residents spoke about application 21/3100M, asking the committee to update their previous objections, directing the committee to the submitted design statements, noting Cheshire Wildlife Trust produced a report titled “Protecting and Enhancing Knutsford’s Natural Environment” which informed the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan and was published weeks after Longridge was adopted into the Local Plan, stating the site is part of an important series of wildlife corridors in Knutsford which should not be developed and the applicant is making a case for not requiring an EIA and developing a site of high distinctiveness wildlife designation, and that Delmar Road residents raised concerns about the access road and the traffic assessment not accurately reflecting usage as Higher Downs would become a congested route during the peak times and already suffers from historic flooding.
A representative of the Knutsford Residents in Over Ward Group spoke about the differences between the design proposals when the outline application was first submitted stating the new layout presents a segregated development for the upper middle class with very little integration with the existing Longridge development.
PL23/030 CONFIRMATION OF PREVIOUS MINUTES
It was RESOLVED to approve the minutes of the meeting held on 19th June 2023 subject to typographic corrections.
PL23/031 PLANNING APPLICATIONS
It was RESOLVED to submit the following comment in response to the revised documents submitted for application 21/3100M – Land east of Longridge.
Knutsford Town Council continues to OBJECT to application 21/3100M – Land east of Longridge, Knutsford: Outline planning permission with some matters reserved – Residential development of up to 225 dwellings and a building for Class F2 use (with access considered), as the proposal is not in the best interests of Knutsford, and would like to expand on our previous objection, on the following grounds:
- The proposal continues to fail to comply with the Cheshire East Design Guide as it continues to fail to fully integrate as part of the existing neighbourhood and community. The proposed development layout has been compressed into a smaller built area which would not be outward looking or welcoming and it cannot connect fully to adjoining areas. It cannot offer potential future connections as the covenant continues to act as a barrier that appears to present increased planting, which reinforces the lack of access across the covenant land and increases the segregation behind a wall of vegetation which isolates the development from the intended integration with the existing Longridge residential area. The Town Council urges Cheshire East Council to further explore better integration with existing Longridge development across the land subject to the covenant, so the use of the additional land for the sole access point is not required for this development.
- The revised increase in housing density within proposed dwellings area, is higher than the anticipated range in the Local Plan, is a result of attempting to fit more into a smaller development space within the overall site which constitutes overdevelopment and may be more suitable with a reduced number of target dwellings.
- The proposal continues not to sufficiently demonstrate exceptional circumstances for the use of an area of, Green Belt land, identified as such on the “proposals map” within the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan and “figure 15.45” of the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy, and Local Green Space land 32, identified in Appendix 4 of the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan, for the creation of an access road. The justification of it being required to circumnavigate a covenant is not considered exceptional circumstances.
- The site holds significant biodiversity value, meets the criteria for Local Wildlife Site selection and qualifies as an area of High Habitat Distinctiveness, in accord with Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s evaluation, and as such is considered a ‘non-designated asset’ to which the full weight of Local Plan Policies SE3 and ENV1 and Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policy E3 should be applied.
9.12 of the explanatory notes for policy E3 of the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan reads “Cheshire Wildlife Trust produced a report on ‘Protecting and Enhancing Knutsford’s Natural Environment’ to accompany the Neighbourhood Plan. It should be used as a primary reference source when considering ecological aspects of development in Knutsford.”
The Trust’s 2017 report notes that areas of medium distinctiveness habitat provide important wildlife habitats in their own right as well as acting as ecological stepping stones and corridors, and included the methodologies used were desk-based rather than field-survey-based leading to a possibility that some of the medium distinctiveness areas were undervalued.
Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan 9.13 explanatory notes for policy E3 state that medium distinctiveness allocations would require the most thorough ecological evaluation and proposals for effective mitigation and enhancement before they may be considered suitable for development, and therefore the failure to undertake appropriate surveys at the preliminary stages of entering site LPS38 into the Local Plan, and thorough evaluations for the submission of the proposal, has led to a miscalculation of the ecological value of the site, and the council encourages the applicant to undertake an up to date and exhaustive assessment.
- A volume in excess of 500, Category B and C trees, and more significantly the amount of Category A trees, marked for removal, along with the large areas of grasslands, will have a devastating impact on the wildlife, habitats, and carbon sequestration, which mitigation on or off-site, will certainly not be able to replace decades of habitat development and growth without a detrimental impact on Knutsford’s wildlife, therefore failing to meet the requirements of Local Plan Strategic Priority 3 and policy E3 of the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan.
- A small area of fen, which is considered priority and irreplaceable habitat would be lost and the application fails to provide suitable bespoke compensation for this. Sections of important hedgerows originally designated for retention are still identified for removal which adds more strain to the Biodiversity Net Gain calculations for mitigation. To meet the mitigation requirements an off-site provision will be needed to supplement the proposal, this will not directly benefit the environment or biodiversity of Knutsford, or the surrounding area.
- A considerable variety of species, including some recorded as European Protected Species, have been identified on the site. The application fails to present a positive contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and the built area of the proposal has the potential to detrimentally harm corridors C-011 and C-019 with no considered buffer zone, and the access road directly impacts the secondary wildlife corridor C-004, all three of which are identified in Appendix 1 of the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan for green and blue corridors; and therefore does not meet the requirements of Local Plan Strategic Priority 3 and Policy SE 3, Site Allocations Development Policies Document Policy ENV1, and Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policy E3, and the proposal continues not to establish a maintenance plan or improvement strategies for the green corridor network as required by policy E2 of the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan.
- The council also raises concerns that there is no obvious agenda to improve access or infrastructure of the town and the current infrastructure and road network will fail to meet demands in this area with a potential 500 additional vehicles travelling along the Higher Downs and Longridge routes from the single proposed access point. The sole entry point for the development combines access and egress for cyclists, and pedestrians, and all vehicular travel, it is opposite a bus stop and a school, and particularly during peak travel times has the potential to be dangerous. The Town Council urges Cheshire East Highways to re-survey the potential impact of the development on the nearby road network during peak travel times, over concerns raised from nearby residents regarding the historic flooding of Higher Downs and the current congestion during peak times, particularly due to the nearby schools.
The Town Council requests the Case Officer and decision maker(s) carefully consider the consultation submission from the Manchester Airport Aerodrome Safeguarding Authority regarding the ponds and safety concerns over attracting relevant bird activity.
If the application is to be approved:
- The council must ensure the proposed community building is a fundamental part of the application, secured by condition, and s106 obligation. The s106 obligation must ensure the building is in community ownership, and through consultation with the relevant parties, the building is constructed for handover as part of the proposal instead of a financial contribution to it.
- Several conditions should be applied requiring detailed ecological mitigation strategies to be submitted and strictly adhered to during development.
- The phasing of the delivery should include the open-space provisions, such as the “kickabout” area, upon first occupation of the housing. This is required to mitigate for the loss of existing open space which will be immediate as access road will be required to facilitate development.
Additionally, Knutsford Town Council continues to further support s106 contributions for, active travel schemes to promote/create/improve walking and cycling connections from the site to the Town Centre and other town facilities and the provision of additional school places as requested by CEC Education schools organisation and Health facilities by the Clinical Commissioning Group. Plus, the indoor and outdoor sports contributions in line with the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan – Sports vision action plan.
PL23/032 DATE OF NEXT MEETING
It was noted that the next meeting would be held on Monday 10th July at 6pm.