Planning Details

Cheshire East Council allocated 200 acres of Danes Moss for development under the Cheshire East Local Plan (2017). This document allocates land in the borough for commercial and residential development. The two parts of Danes Moss that are allocated for development are LPS 13 and LPS 15.

Local Plan Site 13 

  • 136 acres
  • Also known as the South Macclesfield Development Area
  • Covers the entirety of Danes Moss North Local Wildlife Site.
  • Around 150 homes have already been built off Moss Lane (by Barratt Homes).
  • Since 2019 has had outline planning permission for an additional 950 houses plus retail units.
  • However, ten reserved matters planning applications remain for approval before development can begin. These can be found at the bottom of this page.
Site LPS13 Map

Local Plan Site 15

  • 64 acres
  • Covers Bailey Ridding Moss which is connected to the wider Danes Moss peatland by peat that extends under Congleton Road south of the Rising Sun pub. Bailey Ridding Moss lies behind the Rising Sun pub and extends south along Congleton Road.
  • No planning consents exist for this site at present.

To summarise:

The SMDA project on Danes Moss has had outline planning permission since January 2019. However, in order to go ahead, the developers (the council and and Barratt Developments plc) need to get 10 reserved matters applications passed. This has not happened yet and is not guaranteed. There is no indication when the reserved matters will be considered for planning permission. 

Site LPS15 Map

Now more detail…

Because the plan is for more than 200 houses, one planning application is not enough and it must be considered by the council’s Strategic Planning Board. Additionally, once an Outline Planning Application has been approved there is still a lot of detail to examine. These details are dealt with in several Reserved Matters Planning Applications but we will deal with these later.

An original outline planning application was made in 2017 under the reference 17/1874M.
This application aimed to establish the principle of development on the SMDA site and was granted in January 2019. 

The story of how this happened is interesting. 

The 12 members of the Strategic Planning Board considered the outline application (17/1874M) at a meeting at Macclesfield Town Hall on the 30 August, 2017. Public speakers against the development were Cllr Laura Jeuda (Labour, Macclesfield South) and Dr Rachel Giles from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. 

Cheshire East Council Meeting Minutes
Cheshire East Council meeting minutes

Dr Giles patiently explained the importance of the site – the numerous priority species that would be devastated by the development, the fact that the peatland could possibly be restored to a natural peat bog (it turns out that it can) and that this would put it into a habitat classification of International Importance. She also repeated the objection of the Trust that the plan would lead to a net-loss of biodiversity and was ‘one of the most environmentally damaging schemes in Cheshire East in recent years.’ Later, Cllr Toni Fox asked the council’s Principal Nature Conservation Officer (Mr James Baggaley) whether he agreed with the assessment of the Wildlife Trust. Mr Baggaley responded that, ‘…yes, I guess it probably is one of the more ecologically damaging plans that we’ve considered recently.’  

Incredibly, even though the Cheshire Wildlife Trust owns the neighbouring Danes Moss SSSI, the council did not consult with the Wildlife Trust  over the development plans – despite five submissions to the council from the Trust. A glaring omission. Was this a deliberate attempt by the council to exclude the voices of wildlife experts and some of the strongest criticisms of the SMDA project? 

Cheshire Wildlife Trust Letter
Letter from Cheshire Wildlife Trust to Cheshire East Council

  

First, Cllr Toni Fox (no longer a councillor) proposed a motion to refuse planning permission. It was defeated 8-4. 

Next, Cllr Mike Sewart (Con, Poynton West and Adlington) proposed a motion to delegate authority for approval to one council officer – the Head of Planning, Mr David Malcolm – with a recommendation that the plans be approved. The motion was carried 8 votes to 4.

So, who voted in favour of the motion to develop Danes Moss?

  • Cllr Steven Edgar           (Conservative, Haslington)
  • Cllr Sarah Pochin           (Conservative at the time, no longer a councillor)
  • Cllr Mike Sewart            (Conservative, Poynton West and Adlington)
  • Cllr Lesley Smetham     (Conservative, Gawsworth)
  • Cllr Liz Wardlaw             (Conservative, Odd Rode)
  • Cllr Gill Merry                 (Conservative, no longer a councillor)
  • Cllr John Hammond      (Conservative, no longer a councillor)
  • Cllr Derek Hough           (Liberal Democrat, no longer a councillor)
 
And who voted against?
 
  • Cllr Steven Hogben        (Labour,  no longer a councillor)
  • Cllr Toni Fox                    (Labour, no longer a councillor) 
  • Cllr Dennis Mahon          (Handforth Ratepayers,  no longer a councillor)
  • Cllr Janet Jackson          (Labour,  no longer a councillor)
 
 Cllr Mike Sewart contradicted the view of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust by stating that ‘we’re getting a reasonable amount of environmental mitigation’ and thought that it would be more than worth it, stating ‘Let’s look on the positive side though. We’re getting improved access to the sports field. We’re getting…highway improvement… We’re getting 95 affordable houses and anybody that’s voting against it is denying 95 families some reasonable properties.’  Note: that’s 95 affordable homes out of 950. 
 
Cllr Sarah Pochin (no longer a councillor) declared that ‘we should absolutely support this application’ and that the development would be ‘on land that – in my opinion – has no aesthetic value. It’s scrubland.’ 
 
 
The recording of the meeting can be found here.

Land ownership

The site is 136 acres (or 55.05 hectares) and since 2017 about 53.6% of the land (c.29.54 hectares) has been owned by Cheshire East Council.  Most of the remainder is now owned by Barratt Developments plc – the largest house builder in the UK.  Barratt bought the land in 2022 from a company registered in Jersey called TG Limited.  This company was owned by Thomas Gallagher who is the brother of billionaire property developer Sir Tony Gallagher. The company number is 115004, registered with the Jersey Financial Services Commission. 

 

Despite Barratt purchasing the TG land in 2022, TG Ltd remains as the joint applicant for planning permission on many of the reserved matters planning applications.

Tony Gallagher’s company, Gallagher Developments is still acting as a planning agent for Cheshire East Council and TG Ltd on the SMDA project.

Electoral Commission records reveal that Tony Gallagher has donated more than £4.1m to the Conservative Party. With donations to individual MPs he has been most generous to the former Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP who received £49,014 in seven payments from 2017 – 2019.

These payments were only made after Brandon Lewis was no longer Housing Minister and had taken on new portfolios. What precisely was the point of all these donations? Was Sir Tony Gallagher so impressed by Brandon Lewis’ performance as Minister of Policing and the Fire Service that he could not resist donating £20,000 to his re-election campaign in 2017? 

By comparison, Gallagher only gave one-off donations to other MPs and significantly less than he gave to Brandon Lewis – £10,000 was given to Boris Johnson and £8,000 to George Osbourne.

In 2016, Tony Gallagher hosted former Prime Minister David Cameron’s 50th birthday party at Sarsden House, his home in Chipping Norton. 

In February 2022, The Sunday Times reported that Sir Tony Gallagher was part of a privileged group of Tory donors who, in return for a donation of at least £250,000 were made members of a ‘secret advisory board’ with direct access to the Prime Minister’s advisors. The report concludes: ‘None of the meetings appear to have been minuted or attended by civil servants, so there is unlikely to be any record of the advice or lobbying which took place.

TG Ltd began buying land on Danes Moss in early 2014. Some investments in TG Ltd activity came from overseas tax havens. A Gibraltar company called Spadea Holdings bought £5.8m in securities in TG Ltd which allowed investors to fund TG Ltd land purchases. These investors included Bluestar Enterprise Ltd, Walsingham Capital Ltd and the Panama-based Pegasus Star Holdings SA.

Land Registry extract showing lenders for a purchase of land by TG Ltd on Danes Moss
planning Applicants
Land ownership map of the SMDA on Danes Moss: the red land is now owned by Barratt Developments Plc. The blue land is owned by Cheshire East Council. The vast manjority of the site is peatland with an average depth of 2.3m - in places 5m+

The Planning Applicants

In effect, the planning applicants are Engine of the North and Barratt Homes.

Engine of the North

For Engine of the North, read Cheshire East Council. Engine of the North was incorporated in 2013 and is a company wholly owned by the Council. A decision was made to wind down the company in January 2019. This has still not happened although the council used to claim that the company was dormant and since 2019 have said they intend to close the company “in the next 12 months”. 

So, if Engine of the North is no longer driving the SMDA project on behalf of the council, who is?

According to the council’s own website, “The Economic Development service has a role in leading economic development and regeneration and is the facilitator of the SMDA project”

The council officers who are involved are Peter Skates, the Director of Growth and Enterprise with occasional help from Charles Jarvis, Head of Economic Development and Brendan Flanagan, Head of Rural and Cultural Economy.

Judging by the statements from the council, the project is being driven from a purely short-term financial perspective that ignores and contradicts the Council’s supposed priorities on the environment.

Barratt Homes

The UK’s biggest house builder. The real company name is BDW Developments Ltd however they are often referred to as ‘Barratt Homes’ or ‘Barratt Developments.’ 

What happened to TG Ltd?

TG Ltd may no longer be directly involved. They sold their land on the SMDA to Barratt Homes but may still be involved in contractual agreements with the Council. They are still listed as the planning applicant on many of the reserved matters applications. TG Ltd is owned by Thomas Joseph Gallagher. His brother, Sir Tony Gallagher owns a company called Gallagher Developments who are listed as the planning agent for all of the applications that mention TG Ltd.

In March 2022, Sir Tony Gallagher told us (via his secretary) that he has .‘..no interest in TG Ltd…’ 

 

 

Who is leading the project?

This is unclear. Previously, it was Cheshire East Council (Engine of the North). Now, the Council state:

‘The council has in the past taken the lead role in providing the new link road and the development’s green infrastructure but is now working with Barratt Developments on a revised delivery strategy.

In formulating a revised strategy the council and Barratt Developments will follow the appropriate geo-technical and ecological solutions to produce proposals that will minimise any environmental impact.’

 

The Council’s SMDA website is available here.

Justifying the unjustifiable

More recently, Cheshire East Council revealed its true institutional attitude to the excavation of an old peat bog in Henbury to make way for Bellway’s housing development on Chelford Road. 

Bellway (a company once given the highest ever fine for wildlife crime in the UK) are currently engaged in the excavation of 15,600 cubic metres of peat which is being used to create garden soil and infill as well as over 6,000 cubic metres being removed from the site and used elsewhere all leaving a trail of CO2 emissions.

In January 2022, Nub News journalist, Alex Greensmith, pointed out the contradiction between the council allowing this to happen and their stated environmental ambitions. In response, a council spokesperson said, ‘whilst any removal of peat is regrettable in terms of environmental sustainability, this must be balanced against the economic and social benefits of a proposed development.’ 

If Cheshire East Council believe that the destruction of our biggest carbon stores can be balanced against ‘economic and social benefits’ can we really take them seriously? 

 

References

  • Cheshire East Council (2017) Cheshire East Local Plan: Local Plan Strategy 2010 – 2030  

         (pages 227 – 231 and 234 – 240)

                Available at: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/pdf/planning/local-plan/local-plan-strategy-web-version-1.pdf

Planning Applications List

List of all planning applications related to the SMDA site from 2017 to present.

  • 1 outline permission
  • 1 non-material amendment
  • 10 reserved matters applications.
17/1874M (OUTLINE APPLICATION)

[GRANTED Jan 2019]
Demolition of existing structures and redevelopment of site including up to 950 homes; a one form entry primary school (use class D1), retail development (use class A1) of up to 4000sqm; employment floorspace comprising offices (use class B1a) of up to 500sqm and warehousing (use class B8) up to 10,000 sqm or relocation of existing demolition / reclamation yard operational facilities (sui generis); associated landscaping, roads and related works – outline application, all matters reserved except site accesses from Congleton Road, Moss Lane and Moss Lane/Star Lane.

19/1796M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Phase 1 primary infrastructure works comprising of enabling works, new highways, footpaths/cycleways, public open spaces, ecology areas and associated hard and soft landscaping, drainage and servicing works pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M. 

21/5940M (NON-MATERIAL MINOR AMENDMENT) 

[GRANTED Dec 2021]

21/6421M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 7 – 325 dwellings (Use Class C3) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M. 

21/6430M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 10 – relocation of existing demolition / reclamation yard operational facilities (Use Class Sui Generis) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M.

21/6429M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 9 – relocation of existing demolition / reclamation yard operational facilities (Use Class Sui Generis) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M.

21/6428M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 6 – 146 dwellings (Use Class C3) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M.

21/6427M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 5 – a one form entry Primary School (1,300 sqm – Use Class D1) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M.

21/6422M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 8 – 179 dwellings (Use Class C3) pursuant to outline planning permission 17/1874M.

22/0054M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 3 – 120 dwellings (Use Class C3) pursuant to Outline planning permission 17/1874M.

22/0036M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 4 – 180 dwellings (Use Class C3) pursuant to outline planning submission 17/1874M.

22/0030M (RESERVED MATTERS APPLICATION)

Details of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Phase 2 – 4,000sq m of retail (Use Class A1) pursuant to outline planning submission 17/1874M.

References

TG Ltd. Company number 115004. Registered with Jersey Financial Services Commission on 17 Feb 2014. Sources: Special Resolution (2014) and Company Accounts (2015 – 2020). 

Cheshire East Council (2022) ‘Freedom of Information Request Internal Review no. 14404186: Request for clarification of CEC’s ownership of land in the South Macclesfield Development Area’

Cheshire East Council (2022) ‘Council responds to concerns about South Macclesfield scheme’ Cheshire East Council (2022) Available here: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/ council_and_democracy/ council_information/media_hub/ media_releases/ council-responds-to-concerns-about- south-macclesfield-scheme. aspx?fbclid=IwAR0wfVq cZ-FP15uOK knc9QGN34TSG_ORZa4oOquHtVbv-DGSay-qHldT ZFk

Daily Mail (2016) ‘Cameron celebrates his 50th with ultra exclusive party’   Available here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3827953/ Cameron-celebrates-50th-ultra-exclusive-party-Just-23-guests-invited- Dave-s-low-key-birthday-albeit-26million-country-pile- owned-favourite-Tory-donor.html

Macclesfield Express (2016) ‘Council defends land deal with Jersey firm’ Available at: https://www.macclesfield-live.co.uk/news/local-news/ council-defends-land-deal-jersey-11411642

The Sunday Times (2022) ‘The Tory donors with access to Boris Johnson’s top team
In return for a £250,000 donation to the Conservatives, multimillionaires are being ushered into the heart of government as part of a secret ‘advisory board’ Published on 19 Feb 2022.