Strategic planning update

This page provides regular updates on planning policy matters in Cheshire East.

March 2023 update

The Strategic Planning Update is one of the ways that we aim to keep people in touch with planning policy matters affecting the borough.

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After an 18-month public examination conducted by independent government Planning Inspector Mike Hayden BSc DipTP MRTPI, the Site Allocations and Development Policies Document was adopted at the Full Council meeting on 14 December 2022.

The SADPD now forms part of the statutory development plan and its policies, along with those in the Local Plan Strategy (adopted 2017) and made Neighbourhood Development Plans, become the starting point for deciding planning applications. Planning law says that planning application decisions must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless there are over-riding planning reasons why this shouldn’t be the case.

The adoption of the SADPD is another milestone for plan-making in Cheshire East. Importantly, the policies of the SADPD pick up key local priorities aimed at securing a more sustainable future for the borough. These include measures to tackle climate change, meet our diverse range of housing needs including affordable housing, protect valuable open spaces and support good health and well-being.

The adoption of the SADPD brings about the full withdrawal of the local plans prepared by the three former borough councils that existed prior to Cheshire East. It means that they will no longer be used in deciding planning applications. In their place is an up-to-date suite of planning policies covering the whole of Cheshire East.

A six-week public consultation took place on the draft MWP between 9 November and 21 December 2022. Around 250 comments were received from some 50 individuals/organisations. The council also received comments on the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment. These supporting documents were published alongside the draft MWP. In addition, several sites were also submitted through the call for sites exercise that was undertaken in parallel with the Draft MWP consultation. The council will now consider all the received comments and seek to make changes to the plan, where appropriate, before reconsulting on an updated version in due course.

Work is currently ongoing on updating the current Waste Needs Assessment so that it covers the full plan period to 2041. This key piece of evidence is required to be completed before the council can produce the updated MWP.

Planning law requires that all local plans must be reviewed within 5 years of their adoption. By ‘review’, this means assessed, to determine whether the plan needs updating. It involves checking if policies in the plan are being successfully implemented, whether they remain in line with national planning policy and whether there have been any other changes in circumstances requiring a different policy approach to be taken.

On 1 July 2022 the Council’s Environment and Communities Committee considered the review of the Local Plan Strategy, which was adopted on 27 July 2017. It was decided that an update to the plan should be commenced to address changes that have been made to national planning policy since its adoption and because of changes in local circumstances.

The new Local Plan will look ahead into the 2040s, well beyond the 2030 end date of the current Local Plan Strategy. It will consider the borough’s future development needs and how they should be met, alongside how we meet other priorities. These include getting to ‘net zero’, enhancing nature and measures to support active lifestyles and good health.

The preparation of the new Local Plan will need to be supported by a range of new studies and reports. Its policies and proposals will also be informed by feedback received through engagement and consultation with residents, local councils, businesses, developers and others.

In November 2022, the council agreed a five-year programme to prepare and adopt the new Local Plan, however, this will now need to be reconsidered in the light of proposed changes to the planning system published by the government on 22 December 2022. These include proposed changes to the way that local plans will be prepared in the future.

More information about the new Local Plan and how you can get involved will be publicised later this year.

Housing: A final draft Housing SPD was consulted on and subsequently adopted in July 2022. The Housing Supplementary Planning Document (PDF, 642KB) will apply across the whole borough and provides additional planning guidance on a range of housing matters for developers, applicants, and other stakeholders. The guidance describes how the council will expect policies in the Local Plan to be applied, for example giving more information on how financial contributions to affordable housing should be calculated and how specialist housing provision will be considered.

Supplementary Planning Documents reliant on the SADPD: During 2021/2022, a number of first draft SPDs, described below, were prepared and consulted on. Their purpose is to assist in the delivery of policies contained in the SADPD, providing further advice, guidance and detail on a range of matters. Now that the SADPD has been completed and adopted by the council, these draft SPDs will be published again in 2022/2023 for a final round of consultation. In preparing the final draft versions, account has been taken of the feedback already received about them.

  • Biodiversity Net GainProvides advice that will apply across the borough and sets out the process through which developers should demonstrate how they have considered habitats and biodiversity in their applications - for example how assets have been retained and improved on site and how offsite financial contributions will be calculated and used.
  • Sustainable Drainage Systems: Provides a guide and toolkit on how surface water should be dealt with in new development to slow down run-off, reduce flooding and integrate improved green design in development.
  • Environmental ProtectionProvides guidance on a range of environmental issues including pollution, air quality, noise and odour. The SPD sets out the types of information and assessments that applicants will need to provide in planning applications where environmental issues may arise.
  • Jodrell Bank: Provides guidance on heritage and landscape matters affecting the observatory and how the electrical interference from new development should be addressed, including the type of information that applicants are required to submit to support their proposals.
  • Developer Contributions: Provides advice and guidance to landowners and applicants on the type of contributions they may be required to make to address the impacts of new development - through ‘Section 106’ and ‘Section 278’ agreements.

At the end of 2022 a referendum was held on the Sound and Broomhall neighbourhood plan. It returned a positive vote for the plan. Congratulations to the parish council and steering group for this important achievement. More information on neighbourhood plan referendums and previous results is also available.

We have the first formal neighbourhood plan submission of 2023 from Little Bollington – congratulations to the group and the plan will be submitted for examination in the coming weeks.

Over Alderley, Nether Alderley, Congleton, Cholmondeley and Chorley, and Bunbury are making great progress towards preparing draft plans and reaching the Regulation 14 stage, whilst Weston and Crewe Green Community Council (formally Weston and Basford Parish) are similarly close to this stage with the review of their neighbourhood plan, originally made in 2017.

Now that the council has formally adopted the SADPD, it’s a great time for groups to start reviewing neighbourhood plans. Through its Statement of Community Involvement, the council has set out how it can support neighbourhood plan groups to review and update their plans. We can advise on all aspects of the process and how groups can make the most of government support.

The current support package from government includes up to £10,000 financial assistance and technical support to prepare a variety of assessments including housing needs reports, site allocations assessments and design codes. Although funding has not yet been confirmed for financial year 2023/24 and beyond, the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities is actively exploring an extension of the programme to March 2024. You can check back here, for further updates on that position and we’ll report any news once we hear what’s happening.

We’re looking forward to plenty of plans reaching completion this year and with local elections in May it’s a good time to consider reviewing your parish or town council’s neighbourhood plan. For more information, or to find out what type of support Cheshire East can provide for your neighbourhood plan please get in touch with the team. Contact details and further information are available via our Neighbourhood Planning page.

The Community Governance Review of town and parish council boundaries along with numbers and arrangements for wards concluded last year. The changes will now come into effect in April 2023. For some communities this will mean changes to their parish boundaries, and you may be wondering how this affects your neighbourhood plan.

The short answer is that changes to the boundary of a parish won’t automatically require a change to the neighbourhood plan area and all adopted plans will continue to apply to the area that was originally designated, even if part of the plan is now in a different parish. However, you may wish to re-designate the neighbourhood area to align to the new parish boundary and there is a process in place to make such changes if that’s the case. If you’d like to find out more and understand the process, or the implications of the community governance review for your plan, then please do get in touch with us via to discuss your particular circumstances.

The council continues to perform well in relation to housing delivery and maintaining a future supply of deliverable housing land (‘5 year supply’). Where either of these falls short of the required levels, sanctions are imposed on councils which can include taking away their ability to make planning application decisions in line with the Local Plan.

During 2021/22 a total of 2,779 additional homes were built in Cheshire East; almost 1,000 homes above the Local Plan Strategy requirement for 1,800 homes/year. This is the fifth year in succession that housing delivery has exceeded the borough’s annual housing requirement. This period coincides with the adoption of the Local Plan Strategy, underlining the key role that it plays, and continues to play, in maintaining adequate levels of housing delivery and supply.

Although the housing requirement has been exceeded in recent years, in every year between 2010 (the start of the period covered by the Local Plan Strategy) and 2017, delivery fell short of 1,800 homes, leading to a housing delivery shortfall. Since 2017, this has been reducing year on year and, as at 31 March 2022, this shortfall stood at 762 homes.

The council’s latest deliverable housing land supply figure was published in February 2023 and relates to the position at 31 March 2022. At 11.6 years, it is well above the 5 year threshold required under national planning policy. Those who keenly monitor the borough’s 5 year supply will note that the latest figure represents a significant increase from the previously published figure of 6.3 years (at 31 March 2021). This is because national planning policy requires councils with a local plan over five years old to calculate their deliverable housing land supply using their ‘local housing need’ figure. The current ‘local housing need’ figure for Cheshire East is 1,070 homes/year and is worked out using a formula prescribed by the government. However, it is important to stress that the ‘local housing need’ figure is only relevant for calculating the council’s deliverable housing land supply. It does not replace or over-ride the requirement to build at least 36,000 homes (equating to 1,800 homes/year) contained in the Local Plan Strategy between 2010 and 2030.

You can read more on the housing completions and supply page.

In the last Strategic Planning Update we reported that a number of planning reforms had been introduced by the government, including giving greater freedoms to change the use of buildings in an effort to support the vitality of town centres. Further, more significant reforms are proposed. They are being brought forward through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and through changes to national planning policy.

Amongst other things, the LURB contains some major changes to the way that planning policy is prepared at a local level. These include:

  • Speedier plan-making. In the future local plans will take 30 months to prepare, from start to adoption.
  • Local plans will be subject to a series of additional ‘gateway checks’ by the Planning Inspectorate to address any problems with emerging policies and proposals at an early stage.
  • Development management policies on issues that apply in most areas would be set out nationally in a suite of National Development Management Policies. They would not need to be repeated in local plans. NDMPs would have the same weight as local and neighbourhood plans in decision making, however any inconsistencies would be resolved in favour of the NDMPs.
  • The current legal ‘duty to co-operate’ which requires local planning authorities to work together on strategic cross boundary issues would be replaced with an ‘alignment test’. Details of how this new test will work will follow.
  • Powers in the Bill will allow more standardised and reusable data to inform plan-making. This is intended to enable both plans and underpinning data to be accessed and understood more easily by communities and other interested parties thereby helping them to better engage in the plan-making process.
  • Local planning authorities will have a new power to prepare ‘supplementary plans’, which will be able to contain policies for specific sites or to set out design standards. These plans will replace ‘supplementary planning documents’. Supplementary plans will be subject to independent examination and will carry greater weight in decision-making once adopted.
  • The current Community Infrastructure Levy will be replaced by a new Infrastructure Levy. It will, similarly, be a means by which contributions are obtained from developers to fund local infrastructure. However, unlike CIL, which applies a set charge based on the floor area of buildings, it will be charged on the value of property when it is sold. All councils will be required to adopt the Infrastructure Levy and further details of how it will work will be set out in future regulations.
  • Councils will be required to prepare infrastructure delivery strategies. These will set out a strategy for delivering local infrastructure and spending Infrastructure Levy proceeds.
  • Community Land Auctions will be piloted. This will be an alternative way of identifying and allocating land for development in local plans. Landowners will be able to submit their land to the local planning authority offering an option on it at a price set by the landowner. The local authority will then take account of both planning considerations and the option price in deciding whether to allocate the land. If the land is allocated in the adopted plan, the local planning authority will then auction the development rights on to a successful bidder. The difference between the option price offered by landowner, and the price offered to develop allocated land, will be retained by the local authority and able to be spent locally.
  • All local planning authorities would have a legal duty to produce a design code for their area, which will be given full weight in planning application decisions, either through forming part of the local plan or being prepared as a supplementary plan.
  • The current system of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability Appraisals will be replaced by ‘Environmental Outcomes Reports’. The aim is to have a clearer and simpler process of assessing local plans which helps to achieve positive environmental outcomes.

As noted above, changes are also proposed to national planning policy, which is another important means by which the government will implement their reforms. The NPPF is expected to be revised twice over the next 12 months or so. Amongst other things, proposed shorter term changes relate to:

  • how local plans should establish appropriate housing requirements;
  • the operation of the housing delivery and the five-year housing land supply;
  • simplifying the tests of ‘soundness’ through which plans are examined, which seeks a more proportionate approach towards evidence;
  • measures to tackle slow build-out by housing developers;
  • clarifying expectations around planning for older people's housing; and
  • promoting more beautiful homes, including through ‘gentle density’

The shorter-term changes are expected to take effect during Spring 2023. A fuller review of the NPPF is also proposed, details of which will be published later this year or into 2024. The content of the final NPPF will depend on the implementation of the government’s proposals for wider changes to the planning system, including through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

The government has published more information about the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and the changes to national planning policy.

Page last reviewed: 02 March 2023