The next Strategic Planning Board meeting is on Friday 13th January 2023 and it’s main focus is the outline planning for the proposed development of 1500 houses at Handforth on the edge of Cheshire East, north of Macclesfield.
It is for 19/0623M, an outline planning application:
Handforth Planning Portal Page
An agenda for the meeting can be found here:
Strategic Planning Board Agenda 13/01/2023
The Barn Owl picture used at the top of this page is taken near Blossoms Lane within approximately 100 metres of the edge of the proposed development.
Reading through the agenda document from page 11 onwards it is interesting to see how many parallels there are with this development and the proposed development at Danes Moss.
To begin, it is being recommended for approval by the Planning Officers on the basis of what appears to be a summary that completely omits listing the damage and objections regarding the environmental impact of this development.
This statement appears to be lacking some of the truths that are contained elsewhere in the document regarding significant concerns…
It can be seen the applicant is a company called ‘Engine of the North‘, this happens to be the same applicant as the Danes moss development. It is a company registered to Cheshire East Council and therefore Cheshire East Council will be primary landowner again, i.e. this is development on publicly owned land where the Council are also the planning authority.
LACK OF ADHERENCE TO SITE ALLOCATION PRINCIPLES
Is has been allocated under site LPS 33, more detail can be found here:
LPS33 Spacial Plan Details
Note some of the principles of development:
e: Features of amenity value including mature trees, hedgerows and ponds must be retained where possible.
k: The development should retain important habitats and provide compensatory habitats for great crested newts and other protected and priority species and habitats on the site. The green corridors should be designed to support the preservation and enhancement of biodiversity on the site.
This sounds familiar to the the kind of principles that were largely ignored in the planning approval of the Gaw End Lane development adjacent to Danes Moss and adjacent to the Site of Special Scientific interest. Here for site LPS17 Gaw End Lane there were the following principles:
- The site will be developed only where it can be demonstrated that there is no significant harm on the Danes Moss SSSI, particularly in relation to changes in water levels and quality and recreational pressures. This should include a full assessment of the direct and indirect impacts of the development on the features of special interest. Where impacts cannot be avoided, appropriate mitigation measures will be required to ensure protection of the SSSI
- Any application would need to be supported by a full ecological appraisal. Ecological mitigation would be required to address any adverse impacts.
More information can be found on this on our blog here:
It seems statements that are made enabling sites to be added to the local plan are then largely bypassed within the planning process.
DESTRUCTION OF A LOCAL WILDLIFE SITE
As was recently publicised, the whole of the proposed development area at Danes Moss is now an LWS (Local Wildlife Site):
Cheshire Wildlife Trust article on Danes Moss LWS
What this means in practice is:
From the bottom of page 20 of the agenda document it can be seen there are significant objections for the damage this development will have on the Handforth Dean Meadows and Ponds Local Wildlife Site (LWS). The proposed scheme will result in the loss of at least 49% of this site with potentially more without adequate measures to protect the site during construction.
There are still numerous unaddressed comments for the environmental impact (the ‘ES Addendum’) that remain unanswered:
- the exact construction footprint is still undefined and it is without a Landscape and Ecology Management Plan to protect retained features of the LWS (sounds familiar to Danes Moss, there is still no released ES Addendum for the reserved matters applications regarding ecology, also sounds familiar to Gaw End Lane where the hedgerow to be retained was removed by developers regardless of the fact it was clearly marked as priority for protection)
- the Biodiversity Net-Gain (BNG) calculations appear not to be available for scrutiny, if there is really net-gain then why? (sounds familiar to Danes Moss, see here for information on the Carbon report that was withheld for 10 months: Hidden Peat Report)
- A number of ecological receptors within the area impacted by the proposed development are undervalued, some significantly (sounds familiar to Danes Moss where the Environmental impact Assessment was completely inadequate for the outline planning approval, read more here: Process and Transparency Issues at Cheshire East Council)
- The accuracy of the impact assessment, e.g. leading to inappropriate and insufficient mitigation (sounds familiar to Danes moss, scientifically incorrect ‘Ecology Technical Note’ regarding the impact on Dingy Skipper Butterfly here TEP Ecology Note verses a rebuttal citing academic research here Cheshire Wildlife Trust response, the reality with development is not beneficial but extremely detrimental)
- The Principles of Garden Villages (reference the guidance contained in the Garden City Standards for the 21st Century: Practical Guides for Creating Successful New Communities), which states (Principle 7) that designated “sites and irreplaceable habitats of international, national and local significance should be protected from development.” (sounds familiar to Danes Moss, the whole of the proposed development area at Danes Moss is a section 41 habitat of principle importance and as detailed in the withheld carbon report it’s restoration potential makes it internationally significant)
In the Officer Appraisal in the performance against the SPD on page 41 it states:
How can such a misleading statement be included within the document? Developments should not proceed on ‘initial signs’ there should be hard documented evidence in these times of both the climate and the biodiversity crisis. To take a quote from page 51:
WILDLIFE PROTECTED BY LAW
It is noted on page 54 how ‘mitigation‘ is some cases is to simply say it does not matter:
There are many records of Barn owls living in the area, just ask the residents living on Church lane and Blossoms lane, not to mention the Tawny Owls and Little owls that have not even been considered.
This is very familiar with the Gaw End Lane permission where a Barn Owl was seen on a bat survey, and again on the proposed development area at Danes Moss. Simple investigation with Cheshire Wildlife Trust would have confirmed their nesting within hundreds of metres of these sites. How many times can we say it is an ‘occasional forage area’ or a ‘percentage of a territory’ before we make the available habitat so small they simply become extinct in the area.
See the latest biodiversity update summary here for Danes Moss: Biodiversity Update November 2022
It can be assumed that a similar array of biodiversity will exist at handforth but has simply been ignored via minmal surveying, adopting a policy of ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ provides explanation for one of the reasons why we are seeing such declines in wildlife within Cheshire East and across the country. Here is an example from page 55:
Perhaps Cheshire East Council should make the effort to look a bit harder for all wildlife?
In a time of biodiversity loss is ‘sufficient’ mitigation good enough to help solve the issue? it is well known there is not much scientific basis to say mitigation actually works: British Ecological Society Article
Another poor example can be found on page 55 regarding bats:
Surely all the evidence for this should be collated prior to any granting of planning consent to ensure the affected species can be protected. Pushing these issues to reserved matters means they can simply be lost or ignored in the future with quotes such as ‘the principle of planning has already been agreed with the passing of outline planning’. So pushing it to a later stage, but then at the later stage referring to the earlier stage and skipping the required due diligence.
For the proposed development area at Danes Moss we are yet to see any updates to environmental surveying or mitigation since the outline matters were submitted in 2019.
The bats lose out again like the Barn Owls with a lack of understanding of the low density occurrence of some species:
Is it really acceptable to discount wildlife that should be protected just because they were recorded only occasionally? (many species exist at low densities and the method of surveying can cause imbalances in recording) Surely more investigation should be done, these are species protected by multiple laws.
The biodiversity net gain from page 57 of the Handforth document is listed as positive:
While potentially an increase in biodiversity, this is potentially a very subjective (rather than accurate) calculation based on key points referred to above in the objection from Cheshire Wildlife Trust:
- the assets are undervalued
- the Biodiversity Net-Gain (BNG) calculations appear not to be available for scrutiny
How can these figures be trusted when the calculations are not available for scrutiny? is this the action of a modern, transparent local authority?
In addition, is getting a gain (based on flawed figures) aspirational enough? Is a gain that is ‘considered to be acceptable’ actually acceptable for a modern local authority to set as an example when considering planning permission on land it owns?
For Danes Moss, how do we trust Cheshire East Councils aspirations of net zero when there is no acknowledgement of the impact of planning decisions for Council owned land on carbon output? There is 220,000+ tonnes of CO2 contained within the proposed development area at Danes Moss.
It can be seen on page 43:
This appears to be the same amendment in 2018 that removed the proposed development area at Danes Moss from the Landscape Character Assessment. Despite this being a significant change only 5 years ago there is no official record of why and how this was done despite investigation from the Save Danes Moss Community Group, more information can be found here
The proposed Handforth development, like at Danes Moss, is an area of greenbelt and it is worth noting the agenda documentation states that Stockport Council continues to raise concerns over this:
The Danes Moss development has similar unanswered concerns from 2018, e.g. the potential human impact of pollution from the adjacent landfill, see the communication from the company responsible for it’s management here: C3 Waste Response
Handforth Parish Council also object (page 24), one of the principles of development in the local plan is sustainability:
We have major similar concerns on a very large scale for the proposed Danes Moss development, see the withheld Council commissioned carbon report mentioned above for a full description of the 220,000+ tonnes of CO2 it contains.
To conclude, is this really an acceptable docment to issue to the Councillors on the Strategic Planning Board and for residents of Cheshire East?
Did the Council really take into account the impact back then when even now the real impact to the environment has been downplayed and ignored? 2017 is 6 years ago, we know even more about what environmental damage habitat destruction is causing now and it is clear the ‘package of on and off-site compensation works’ is not fit for purpose. This is similar to the Danes Moss development where a decision is referred to that it was earmarked for development way back in 1997, is this really a reason that we should not take a step back and say actually this may have been a decision that was passed at the time but with further investigation it has proved to be wrong?
Is it reasonable for Cheshire East Council to continue to act in such a non-transparent and biased manner with planning decisions when the future of our climate and biodiversity is at stake?