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Concerns poor will suffer in exchange for link road

A scheme to bring 175 new homes, a supermarket, local centre, offices, and light industrial development – as well as 500 jobs – to Congleton was given outline planning permission at a recent council meeting.

However councillors voiced concerns that the poor would suffer due to a reduction in the amount of affordable housing included.

The approval for the 55-acre site, given by Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board, meant councillors were happy with the principle of the Viking Way proposals.

The development will fill in land at the back of Barn Lane between the current office and retail park and the new link road, recently christened Wolstenholme Elmy Way.

A meeting on Thursday saw concerns raised at the reduced affordable housing provision — 17.5% compared to the usual 30% — and cycling connectivity with the East-West greenway.

But councillors felt that many of the issues could be ironed out in the future, and the lack of affordable housing was acceptable, given the estimated £2.6m developer contribution for the Congleton link road attached to the project.

Knutsford Coun Stewart Gardiner said: “I think we have spent a very long time discussing this application and failing to understand that actually all we are being asked to consider is that principle of development and primary means of vehicular access.

“Everything else is to be dealt with at reserved matters, including the greenway. All we have seen so far is an indicative layout — not an actual layout.

“The officers have worked to ensure that this piece of the jigsaw fits into the whole picture. I think the arguments about affordable housing are valid — but I am afraid to say that if we were to push for anything more we would (give) ourselves problems at an appeal but we also would prevent the development of this road, or the rest of us will have to pay for it.”

In all, 10 of the board’s 12 members voted in favour of approving the bid — with only chair Coun Mike Hunter and Coun Rob Moreton opposed.

Coun Moreton said: “I am still concerned about the affordable housing. It always feels to me that the poor have to suffer to pay for things like link roads.

“Can we boost that to 30%? Can we do the sensible thing and defer this and link the upcoming developments? “It would be the right and proper thing to do for Congleton.”

Richborough Estates won the planning permission, and the work will be carried out by Clowes Developments.

The company said the scheme would create in the region of 500 jobs and would include park and wildlife corridors and a “neighbourhood retail centre”.
Access will be via Wolstenholme Elmy Way.

Nick Jones, regional director at Richborough Estates, said: “We are thrilled to have secured planning permission and the sale to Clowes within just weeks of bringing the site to the market.

“This will be a really high-quality scheme for people to live and work and supports Cheshire East’s aim of delivering employment-led growth, homes and community infrastructure.

“Clowes has been a pleasure to deal with and we look forward to working with it on the project going forward.

“Congratulations to our landowner and all the team, including agents Savills, Legat Owen and Hinson Parry.”

Marc Freeman, director at Clowes Developments, said: “We are extremely excited about bringing this scheme forward and delivering a thriving new community with high quality homes and business space.

“We’re confident that development of the site located on the fringe of Congleton town will provide a number of economic benefits through the extensive commercial, employment, and residential uses.”

As part of the approval, the planning board attached a condition that the affordable housing quota does not drop below 17.5%.

Many of the other details in the application will be resolved in a reserved matters application, brought forward at a later date.

At a recent meeting of Hulme Walfield and Somerford Booths Parish Council, concerns were raised about the impact on Giantswood Lane, with one resident saying an upgrade would be required to cope with additional vehicles generated by the development.

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