Whaley Bridge’s battle against the Gladman housing estate, which started at Christmas, came to an end on Monday, 4 August. The development control committee of High Peak Borough Council voted the controversial plans through with just two objections, despite final pleas by a young mother and solicitor and all three of Whaley’s borough councillors. Some of the large group of campaigners who sat in Chapel town hall through the meeting left in tears.
A disappointed Kevin Worthington, who has led the campaign group WhaleyBridge Matters since early January said later:
“This is a very sad day for all of Whaley Bridge. Clearly, the precedent this sets means that no green field site is safe whilst there are landowners willing to sacrifice their heritage for short term monetary gain.
“The approval of this site with such poor and dangerous access means that it is only a matter of time before the first serious injury or death occurs and I along with the rest of the members of Whaley Bridge Matters will be there to remind HPBC and the councillors of their very poor decision.”
The estate of 107 houses is planned for the greenfield site between Linglongs Road and Macclesfield Road. There have been many objections on ecological grounds and road safety, especially at a new exit on to Macclesfield Road near blind corner. Outline permission only has been granted at this stage, with all matters except access to be determined at a later stage. Gladman have disclosed that they themselves will not be the developer.
Francesca Read, a mother who lives near the proposed site, addressed the meeting. Francesca, who is a lawyer, said environmental and social impacts on ‘this idyllic site’ were negative, far outweighing the short term economic benefits. She said the planning officer had failed to present a ‘coherent’ argument in favour of the development. It would be ‘irrational and procedurally improper’ to approve the plans.
Francesca received long applause, as did the Whaley Bridge councillors. Cllr John Pritchard (Ind) said three appeals against planning approval in different areas of the country had been dismissed.
Earlier in the day, he and the committee had visited the site. Cllr Pritchard observed that just after the blind bed, the pavement width was only 14 inches. “Access must be for EVERYONE, able bodied or disabled.”
Cllr David Lomax (Lib Dem) said to the committee: “If you approve the plan, you undermine the work done over two years to find brownfield sites. You might say we’ve wasted those two years.”
A fourth member of the public, believed to be acting on behalf of the applicant, spoke in support of the application.
In her address to the committee. the Planning Officer recorded that correspondence had been received over the weekend seeking to demonstrate that High Peak now has a five year land supply, due to recent approvals. This argument was dismissed. In view of this the officer advised that the committee must make its decision without regard to saved local policies, or the emerging local plan (which contains a site with a much smaller profile than this application), and solely with regard to the National Planning Policy Framework clause ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.
In proposing approval of the application, Cllr John Faulkner said that he has opposed this site in the local plan voting, but was given no choice but to support it given the situation in which the committee finds itself.
Other members recorded their disquiet with the quality of advice being provided by the statutory highway authority.
Cllr Linda Leather (Lib Dem), the only local member of the development control committee, said she ‘totally disagreed’ with the plan. “We should not be made to do things we don’t want. We should standup and be counted.” Linda and a Cllr Young from Chapel were the only two members to vote against the Gladman plan.
In voting the decision through a number of conditions were applied, which will be seen when the decision notice is published.
After the development control committee meeting (see above), Francesca Read explained why she spoke out:
“I am glad that I was able to represent the views of Whaley Bridge Matters – as far as is possible in 3 minutes. My speech explained very clearly to the councillors that they were empowered to refuse this application on the grounds that the adverse impacts significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits (the test set out in the NPPF). The officer failed to address the public’s many concerns in her report, and failed to highlight to the councillors that she had found the proposal not to be sustainable.
“It seems incredible that the councillors, in their quasi-judicial role, are apparently not aware of the legal tests or basis on which they are making their decisions. Also, something of a hysteria has developed at HPBC over the lack of a 5 year land supply and the possibility of appeals by developers against planning decisions. Planning applications are being approved without due consideration – a decision of this importance and complexity deserved proper debate and scrutiny.
“The decision taken seems, in my view, to be highly legally questionable and I will be working with Whaley Bridge Matters to determine our next steps. I am extremely disappointed with the outcome.”