THE war of attrition by Cheshire East to build on substantial areas of greenbelt land around Wilmslow, Handforth and Alderley in a developer free-for-all amounts to a total sell-out of residents' views.
The council has ignored the constructive concerns of residents about preserving the semi-rural character of the town and building on greenbelt land, when many brownfield sites are available.
A growing ring of development is now set to destroy what’s left of the character of the area and add hugely to traffic gridlock.
The Waters office development on the Wilmslow - airport road, Manchester Airport’s bulldozing of a further 96 acres of greenbelt at the M56 junction for more business units and Stockport’s plans to build around 900 houses on the old Woodford airport site will add to population density and commuter traffic. The number of new homes proposed for Wilmslow has increased from 400 to 900. Over 200 houses will now be built on green fields on Adlington Road. Alderley Park is also included in the revised local plan, where there could be 200 to 300 new homes and more commercial units.
But even that is not enough for the council. Approval for a new Handforth East township of 2,200 houses next to the bypass will destroy the last open view we have to the Pennine Hills. A commercial development site has been approved opposite the new township to pack in retail units, drive in restaurants and ‘leisure facilities’, with 22 rather than ten hectares of employment land approved for Handforth. Yet the development takes no account of the extra pressure this puts on the A34. Widening the access roads between the airport relief road and the A34 bypass will make little difference. Council backing for yet another business park on greenbelt land between the Royal London offices and the Wilmslow bypass, with plans for yet another hotel, will destroy the last open views Wilmslow has to Alderley Edge. We don’t need ever more speculative business estates ringing our town, when many commercial buildings remain unoccupied in the area.
A report in 2011 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that many of these projects actually involved displacing existing jobs from elsewhere in the area.
Meanwhile Wilmslow Town Council, which should fight to keep the character of the town, does little to challenge Cheshire East’s development onslaught. Planning head Adrian Fisher and then council leader Michael Jones parrot the usual ‘sustainable communities’ and ‘sustainable growth’ mantras.
They talk of extending greenbelt in other parts of the county, which is of little interest to people in Wilmslow and Handforth. Building more roundabouts and filling them with traffic lights will ease traffic gridlock, they claim. Anyone can see congestion worsened when multiple lights were planted on the A34. The government’s planning inspector, commenting on the council’s updated local plan in May 2015, said he remained concerned about the lack of engagement with local town councils and community interest groups, who do not seem to have been involved in decisions about the amount and distribution of new development.
Brian McGavin Wilmslow