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Town still waiting for neighbourhood plan completion

Congleton’s Neighbourhood Plan is due for completion in early 2023, more than eight years since the process began.

But despite more and more housing developments being built in and around the town, one councillor has said it would have had little impact on what has been built already.

A neighbourhood plan is a way for communities to have a say in the future of the places where they live and work. It gives residents the power to produce a document with “real legal weight” that directs development in the area.

Residents can choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, Alsager completed its neighbourhood plan in 2018 and a second edition of Sandbach’s plan was brought out this year.

Additionally, Hulme Walfield and Somerford Booths released theirs in 2018, and Brereton’s was completed in 2016.

Congleton Town Council started the process in December 2014, and was in the final stages at the time of the 2019 local elections.

The new town hall administration then decided it should go back to the drawing board.
The council’s chief officer, David McGifford explained this week that there had been a delay in completing the plan due to the pandemic.

He said: “Basically, pre-covid we met with the examiner and agreed to withdraw the plan and re-submit following further work due to the complexities of the plan.

“Now we are as clear of covid as we can be, we have picked the neighbourhood plan up again and are progressing with it, aiming to have it completed by early 2023.”

It comes on the back of the plan for 400 more new homes to be built at Hulme Walfield, and although many of the new homes constructed close to Wolstenholme Elmy Way (Congleton Link Road) may not fall within the town council boundary, it highlights the fact that the Congleton community could be having more of a say on development if a neighbourhood plan had already been published.

There are ongoing concerns about the pressure being put on Congleton’s schools, doctors’ surgeries and other services due to housing development.

But Coun Amanda Martin, chair of the town council’s Planning Committee, explained that even if the plan was in place, the town council could not prevent the housing development from going ahead as it had already been agreed through Cheshire East Council’s strategic development plan.

In respect of the housing development plans for Hulme Walfield, she added: “We are having a say. Our main concern is Giantswood Lane and not having too much traffic on there.”

Town councillor Robert Douglas said: “Obviously the problem is that covid’s totally blown out our progress and made it very difficult, but I’m very keen for us to have the neighbourhood plan in place.

“It would be useful to have it for the benefit of our residents and councillors in order to get their views across.”

The Friends of Giantswood Lane group, which has campaigned against multiple new housing developments in the area, has previously asked the question what doctors, dentists and schools these new families will go to with those in the town already under pressure.

Once Congleton’s neighbourhood plan is complete an independent examiner will recommend whether it should go to a public referendum, when residents will vote to adopt it or not.

The referendum in Congleton is earmarked for early next year.

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