Whaley Bridge campaigners’ legal move puts housing estate plan on hold

Legal moves by the campaign group Whaley Bridge Matters (WBM) have succeeded in putting on hold controversial plans for a 107 home estate on a greenfield site. Campaigners are hailing this as an opportunity for High Peak Borough Council planners to look again at the application, giving proper consideration to the strong arguments against it raised by the local community.

The council’s planning department has indicated that it is their intention to present a report to the Development Control Committee in December 2014 or January 2015, addressing points raised by WBM. This is the committee which, in August, voted to give outline planning permission for the estate on a site off Linglongs Road, close to the National Park boundary. Campaigners were prompted to consult lawyers, who challenged the legality of the council’s decision and failures in the processes they had followed.

Francesca Read, who addressed the Development Control Committee on behalf of WBM prior to the vote in August, said: “We welcome the rethink. It gives the council an opportunity to look again at the way they disregarded strong community feelings, how they failed to look adequately at valid points being raised by local people. The community feel they were just swept aside.”

The legal challenge included
* concerns about highways safety around the site, especially Linglongs Road and Macclesfield Road, citing the danger to pedestrians;
* the council’s failure to take account of material considerations, including the impact of the development on residents and the ability of the site to deliver so many houses; and

* the council’s failure to properly assess the merits of the application in light of public concerns.

Francesca added: “The August decision seemed to be bulldozed through. This is an opportunity for the council to finally look seriously at this proposal for development of a site which we think is not viable. It certainly gives us hope that residents will be able to speak out once more about their concerns and fears. To this end, we will be reminding the council of their duties under their adopted Statement of Community Involvement.”

The plan by developers Gladman, from Congleton, was first made public just before Christmas 2013. Local people quickly formed a campaign group. A big public march from the centre of Whaley Bridge to the site was filmed by BBC North West news. Campaigners spoke out against development at this location in a series of public meetings, challenging both the Gladman application and the council’s Local Plan. Campaigners in New Mills succeeded in getting a greenfield site removed from the Local Plan. At the same council meeting, a bid to remove this disputed Whaley Bridge site from the Local Plan failed by one vote.

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