A SPECIAL full council meeting must be held over plans to build thousands of new homes including some on greenbelt land, claim opposition councillors.
Conservative-run Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has published the draft local plan and believes 5,200 homes will be needed in Chester and 4,800 in Ellesmere Port between now and 2030.
But the draft plan controversially recommends building 1,300 homes on greenbelt land off Wrexham Road and 1,500 on farm land off Ledsham Road.
Opposition Labour councillors have described the proposals as ‘over-ambitious’ and argue there is no need to build in the greenbelt.
Councillors on the local development framework (LDF) panel and executive members have already approved the draft plan.
Executive members met last week and agreed to send the extensive public consultation process to the corporate scrutiny committee for review later this month.
Cllr Herbert Manley, executive member for growth and innovation, said: “This plan affects every citizen in this borough. We want to ensure our residents and other interested parties have the best opportunity to engage in the consultation process.”
“Consequently we’ll be asking our colleagues to scrutinise the existing process and, if necessary, make recommendations on how it can be improved.”
But Labour councillors believe the scale of the proposals and the planned incursion into the greenbelt merit greater consideration and should have the endorsement of the whole council. Labour group leader Justin Madders said he would therefore be calling for a special meeting to discuss the draft plan.
He said: “The green belt is too precious to those who have protected it to be concreted over to support a notional housing target beyond the predicted need.
“We need to send an unequivocal statement our countryside is not for sale, we wish to preserve the green belt and it is not open to unrestricted development.”
Across the borough, the 600-page draft plan recommends building 1,100 homes each year until 2030 – 15 per cent lower than the original target – and setting aside an extra 75 hectares of land for employment development. The proposals are for 5,200 homes in Chester, 4,800 in Ellesmere Port, 4,300 in Northwich, 3,500 in Winsford and 4,200 in rural areas.
The local plan will be the first development document published since CWaC came into being in 2009.
It covers crucial issues ranging from housing, employment, environment and the green belt to the economy, transport, heritage, landscape and health.
Cllr David Robinson, opposition spokesman on the environment, believe the housing figures are disproportionate with the need. He said: “At the LDF panel I put forward an amendment of 943 homes per annum – not a big difference – but it would mean we did not need to use the greenbelt in Chester or Ledsham Road.
“This would allow for growth but not at the expense of the greenbelt, strategic open space or high quality agricultural land.”
Some Conservatives also have concerns over the suggestion part of the greenbelt should be built on.
Cllr Margaret Parker, chairman of the LDF panel, said: “We need to be masters of our own destiny. If we do not have a plan in place, then it will be done for us by the government or the developers.”
“We have to work with developers but on our terms and conditions .This plan will help to achieve this."