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8.38 The council recognises the important role of the Green Belt in the borough, particularly in preventing its towns and settlements from merging into one another, safeguarding the countryside and concentrating development into its urban areas. The National Planning Policy Framework states that 'the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and permanence'.
8.39 Cheshire East has around 400 square kilometres of land designated as Green Belt, located in the northern and south-eastern parts of the borough. These form part of the Green Belts surrounding Greater Manchester and the Potteries conurbations. Within the southern and eastern parts of the borough, all of our major settlements are located beyond the outer edge of the Green Belt surrounding the Potteries. However, in the north of the borough, the Green Belt surrounding Greater Manchester is much wider and a number of significant settlements are inset within the Green Belt. Historically, the Green Belt boundaries were drawn very tightly around these settlements, leaving little space for future development.
8.40 Draft proposals for Green Belt in the area were first drawn up in the 1960s to prevent the outward spread of development from Greater Manchester and the Potteries. Detailed boundaries for the North Cheshire Green Belt were defined through a series of Local Plans in the 1980s and detailed boundaries for the South Cheshire Green Belt were defined in the 1980s and early 1990s.
8.41The general extent of the existing Green Belt will be maintained, but to achieve sustainable development over a period of several decades, some alterations to the detailed Green Belt boundaries around settlements in both the north and south of the borough have been necessary through this Local Plan Strategy.
Policy PG 3
Green Belt is a designation for land around large built-up areas, which aims to keep land permanently open or largely undeveloped.
Provision of sufficient areas of open space to the south and east of Hollyhedge Farmhouse to maintain its open rural setting;Provision of a substantial landscaped edge to the south/south east of the development parcel immediately to the south of the railway line (on the opposite side of Main Road to Hollyhedge Farm). This should combine a mix of copse and individual tree planting contained by a new native hedgerow. At the point nearest Hollyhedge Farm in the south eastern corner, a copse should be created. It should include woodland planting on the western edge of the parcel, tying in with the woodland buffer of the Basford East site; Provision of open space and appropriate parkland landscaping alongside the access/drive and to the south of Crewe Hall Farmhouse and associated barnProvision of an area of greenspace to the east of Stowford hamlet, retaining the existing pond, trees and other positive planting as a key space within the development;
8.42 As set out in Chapter The Case for Growth and Overall Development Strategy, and evidenced through the Housing Development Study (2015), the Employment Land Review (2012) and the Alignment of Economic, Employment and Housing Strategy Report (2015) there are significant identified needs for market and affordable housing, as well as for new employment land provision within Cheshire East.
8.43 The National Planning Policy Framework requires that 'Local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area' and that 'Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless: (i) any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or (ii) specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted''.
8.44 The National Planning Policy Framework also states 'Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan'.
8.45 The Green Belt Assessment Update (2015) has considered the contribution each parcel of Green Belt land adjoining settlement boundaries makes to the purposes of the Green Belt. In the north of the borough, there is very little scope to meet these needs from towns and villages inset within the Green Belt boundary, or from urban areas inside the Green Belt boundary. As set out in the Green Belt Assessment Update, a proportion of the proposed development arising from development needs within areas inset within the North Cheshire Green Belt is already channelled to locations within Cheshire East beyond the outer Green Belt boundary. Directing additional development to locations beyond the outer Green Belt boundary would lead to unsustainable patterns of development and would not provide sufficient new development in the areas of need.
8.46 The Green Belt has been a very successful instrument in limiting the expansion of urban areas and encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land. In addition, many of the settlements do not have a significant industrial legacy and are not blighted by large areas of derelict industrial land contributing to a potential supply of appropriately re-usable land for redevelopment. Consequently, there are not sufficient sites likely to be available to deliver enough market and affordable housing to meet anywhere near the identified housing needs and not enough opportunities for key additions to the employment sites portfolio.
8.47 Without alterations to the detailed Green Belt boundaries, the amount of new development that could be planned for in the north of the borough would be very low. It is considered that such a low level of development would have severe consequences including:
8.48 The importance of allocating land to go some way to meeting the identified development needs in the north of the borough, combined with the consequences for sustainable development of not doing so, constitutes the exceptional circumstances required to justify alteration of the existing detailed Green Belt boundaries, whilst maintaining the overall general extent of the Green Belt.
8.49 In the south of the borough, there is a particular need to allow an extension of the Radway Green employment area in the Green Belt. This is a particularly successful business site which has diversified from its munitions origins, is short of available space land and is well located near to the M6 Motorway.
(1) As defined in the Borough of Crewe and Nantwich Local Plan, the Congleton Borough Local Plan and the Macclesfield Borough Local Plan