OPPOSITION councillors are seething after an attempt to prevent greenbelt land being released to developers for thousands of new homes was narrowly defeated.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has published the draft local plan, which will guide development and growth across the borough over the next 17 years.
CWaC believes 22,000 new homes are needed between now and 2030, and wants to see 5,200 in Chester, 4,800 in Ellesmere Port, 4,300 in Northwich, 3,500 in Winsford and 4,200 in rural areas.
But the plan controversially proposes building 1,300 homes on greenbelt land off Wrexham Road in Chester and 1,500 homes on farmland off Ledsham Road in Ellesmere Port.
Labour branded the plans ‘unnecessary and over-ambitious’ and called a special council meeting seeking approval for alternative proposals that would see 3,150 fewer homes built and the greenbelt kept intact.
But council leader Mike Jones tabled an amendment supporting the original figures, and that was carried by 29 votes to 27 in the council chamber in Winsford.
That has angered Labour particularly as some Conservative councillors left the meeting before the vote.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour group leader Justin Madders, who represents Ellesmere Port, said: “This was a golden opportunity for councillors of all political parties to state unambiguously their support for retaining the greenbelt and other important rural spots in our borough.
“Unfortunately, it seemed that the Tories toed their party line which is that development in the greenbelt and green fields is desirable, even though in Ellesmere Port in particular there is more than enough brown field land available to meet the council’s unrealistic housing targets.
“This plan affects areas of our borough represented by Conservative councillors who should have supported us to protect their local residents’ interests.
“The vote was very close and we could have made a difference but they chose to go home without voting to avoid getting into trouble with their Conservative bosses.
“Chester’s greenbelt is what makes the city special. They clearly don’t want to fight for its preservation.”
Had the alternative proposals won approval, the number of new homes to be built around the fringe of Winsford would have also been capped.
Cllr David Robinson, who represents Boughton, added: “Cheshire West and Chester needs realistic housing growth that meets the needs of the area and most importantly retains its character.
“Housing completions are already a long way behind the thousands of housing planning consents. Labour’s figure allows for growth but also protects our greenbelt around Chester and valuable agricultural land.”