Councillors Gray, Dalzell, Houghton, Lowe, McCulloch, Morris, and Robertson.
B Allen (Planning and Facilities Officer) and Cllrs Abel, Forbes, and Malloy
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies were received from Cllr Gardiner on the grounds that the application will go to the Cheshire East Council Strategic Planning Board, of which Cllr Gardiner is a member, and wishes to remain unfettered.
DECLARATIONS OF MEMBERS’ INTERESTS
Cllr McCulloch declared a personal interest in application 21/3100M, on the grounds of being a trustee of The Welcome and being deputy chairman of the Friends of St Johns Wood group.
STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Cllr Gray read out a statement outlining the reasons for the meeting. The statement detailed the history of the site from a development perspective and the covenant for a portion of the land which borders the existing Longridge area. Cllr Gray explained that Cheshire East Council suggested the border of the land be extended to include access to the site.
Two representatives of the Knutsford Residents in Over Ward group spoke in relation to application 21/3100M stating the 5 combined community groups object to the proposal on four key points.
There is an unjustified use of Green Belt land as the red boundary line requests additional land from local greenspace. The road access is on the margins of safety regarding visibility when turning in and out of the site from the north. The travel plan does not prioritise sustainable travel, such as walking and cycling, and no reference to the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan has been made. The impact on the natural environment is now greater than when previously surveyed and a stronger material consideration. The resident groups have been against the development from the beginning and raised the issue of the covenant, noting there may be restrictions on all types of access, not just restrictions for building roads. The council were urged not to accept the initial proposal as lots of questions are still to be answered.
A member of the public spoke in relation to application 21/3100M stating they are not against the building of houses but the bulldozing of local habitats. The resident outlined information obtained through volunteer surveys, noting over 717 trees had been identified on the site, and this number did not include many of the smaller self-seeded oak trees which would add over 100 additional trees. The development would see over 1.8 hectares of land lost. Residents use the site for a place to walk, enjoy nature and wildlife, and over 700 residents signed a petition against the development. The site access has been left unhindered and the area has been left to grow wild, at the benefit of the local wildlife, which can be described as a natural “treasure trove” in this declared climate emergency.
STATEMENT FROM AND QUESTIONS TO THE APPLICANT
John Coxon from Emery Planning described the proposal in its current format, detailing the outline application is for up to 225 homes which will be a mixture of types, tenures, and dwellings, with 30% being affordable homes. The development has been fully set out using the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy and the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan. The proposal seeks to deliver a net gain in biodiversity and green infrastructure, recreational space, appropriate landscaping and boundary treatments, and the necessary access to establish the development. John explained the covenant was not a matter he could discuss in detail.
Mr Coxon responded to questions and comments from members. The concerns over highways and visibility issues for the access could be addressed by moving the proposed bus stop. The drainage of the proposed site access and cycling and walking provisions can be addressed at a later stage after Highways consults on the proposal. The site allocation proposal will be fully assessed for its biodiversity net gain, safety and access by Cheshire East officers and the applicant aims to not impact protected species. The application has a density of 37 dwellings per hectare but across the wider site the density goes down to 14 dwellings per hectare. Lastly, the question of two access points for a site including over 100 homes was raised, but the only additional provision could be that of an emergency access point.
APPLICATION 21/3100M – LAND EAST OF LONGRIDGE
The council OBJECTS on the grounds that it considers the proposal is not in the best interests of Knutsford residents through the following:
- The covenant and the aspirations of the proposal are inextricably linked, and for the application to meet the policies within the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy and the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan, further exploration and clarification of the covenant should be undertaken to avoid it acting as a barrier that will isolate the development from integration with the Longridge residential area.
- The proposal fails to comply with the Cheshire East Design Guide as it cannot integrate as part of the existing neighbourhood and community because it is not outward looking or welcoming; it cannot connect fully to adjoining areas, nor can it offer potential future connections because it is isolated behind the line of green infrastructure along the site boundary.
- The proposal fails to include a secondary access point which will result in a bottle-neck effect when vacating the site. The proposed outline layout could create a further central bottle-neck due to the retained green infrastructure, ultimately leading to the increase in potential gaseous and particulate emissions and therefor does not comply with the Cheshire East Design Guide, the Cheshire East Local Plan Strategic Priority 4, and Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policy E5.
- The proposal fails to meet the objectives set out in Cheshire East Local Plan Strategic Priorities 2 and 4, and it fails to comply with Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policies HW1, T1, T2 and T3 due to the covenant acting as a potential barrier, failing to provide adequate sustainable travel options. Walkers and cyclists will have to use the same route as motor vehicles whilst also navigating the same space as the buses, and the transport assessment needs to be updated to fully consider the impacts the access route will create.
- There is historic highway flooding in the area the access road is proposed, and the construction has not been fully assessed for the additional surface water and flooding impact in order to comply with Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policy E2.
- The tree, wildlife, and ecology assessments are out of date, the site provides far more than the medium habitat distinctiveness it is designated due to the increase in green infrastructure and observed wildlife by residents since the assessments were carried out, therefore the proposal fails to comply with Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan policies E2 and E3.
- The proposal does not identify a justifiable reason for the use of Green Belt Local Green Space for the access road other than seeking a mean to circumnavigate the covenant. Using this land for a road will conflict with its designation and Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan E4 and therefore should been retained as Green Belt Local Green Space.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The date of the next meeting was noted as 19th July 2021 at 6pm.
 Cllr Abel left the meeting during this item.
 Cllr Forbes and John Coxon left the meeting at the end of this item.