The Chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living has hit back at the Council's decision to refuse planning permission for their development of 34 retirement apartments on Holly Road South.
Last week the Northern Planning Committee went against the recommendation of the Planning Officer and refused the scheme (reference 23/0853M) which means Churchill's appeal against their refusal of a previous, similar scheme (ref 22/2347M) will now go ahead.
Spencer J McCarthy, Chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living, claims the decision "is a waste of public money and a shambolic example of the broken planning system" and as a result £100,000 of public money will be wasted on defending an unnecessary planning appeal.
He said "This is shockingly ignorant behaviour from the elected members who sit on the Planning Committee, and in my view they should be held personally responsible for the waste of public money and resources. It's unfair for innocent local people to have to foot this bill.
"The Government has recently set up a new Older People's Housing Taskforce specifically to aid delivery of this type of housing, due to our ageing population and the critical need to ensure that genuine housing choices are available for older people. It is disappointing that Cheshire East's elected members fail to heed this."
The company states that their proposed development would bring over £264,000 per year of extra spending to Wilmslow's local high street, help generate over £154,000 of savings each year for local health and social care services and free up under-occupied housing for the younger generation by enabling over 60s to downsize.
Churchills' first planning application for this site was refused in February, due to the absence of an agreed affordable housing contribution, a lack of on-site car parking and inadequate information provided regarding the potential impact on existing trees.
Churchill Living subsequently lodged an appeal, which scheduled to start on June 27th. Then, in an unusual move, the Chief Executive removed the two reasons relating to lack of parking and failure to provide on-site affordable housing or open space. Leaving the potential impact on existing trees, due to a lack of information being provided, as the only reason for refusal.
Shortly afterwards Churchill submitted a second planning application, with the aim of quickly resolving the three outstanding issues.
Spencer J McCarthy commented "The professional Planning Officer team at Cheshire East worked proactively with us to move our second application forward. Agreement was reached on the Affordable Housing contribution and with the level of car parking provision, and the Council agreed to withdraw these as reasons for refusal from the appeal. The only remaining issue was the lack of tree information, which was subsequently submitted as part of the second application and endorsed by the Officers as being sufficient to overcome the Council's concerns."
Churchill's second application was discussed at the Northern Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, 7th June, when the Planning Officer recommended it for approval.
McCarthy said "Given this, the Government's appointed Planning Inspector had agreed to delay the start of the Public Inquiry in order to allow the determination of our second application, so that if it was approved (as anticipated by ourselves and the Council's officers) the further work and cost of the appeal could be avoided.
"Unfortunately, the Council's Planning Committee had other ideas, and our second application was refused. All professional advice and empirical evidence was ignored, including the warnings about the cost this decision is likely to incur."
He added "Ironically, since all reasons for refusal on our appeal have been resolved, the Council's only option when the appeal opens on 27th June will be to inform the Inspector that they have no objection to the scheme.
"By forcing the continuation of the appeal through to a Public Inquiry, the Council have wasted the time and resources of their own Officers, the Planning Inspectorate, and my company. It's also likely the Council will be ordered to pick up the full costs of the appeal for all parties – likely to be c.£100,000 – based on its unreasonable behaviour. I think it wholly unreasonable for innocent local people to have to cover this cost. Sadly this is yet another example of our broken planning system in action."