Quite Bizarre. At the heart of this row is a rather clumsy plan intervention by the local LEP and the failure of MR Jones to realise that the ‘objective assessment of housing need’ needs to not be job constrained. The LEP had set a jobs target that was not informed by the latest HH projections. Only an inspector and not the police can disintangle this now. A very good case of how in 19 out of 20 cases LEPS have not stepped up to the strategic planning plate.
Police have received a complaint from a city resident who has challenged the methods used by Cheshire West and Chester Council to calculate the number of new houses needed in the borough over the next 20 years.
Ross Jones of Saughall is concerned CWaC’s draft local plan includes a proposal to build 22,000 homes in West Cheshire between 2010 and 2030 which he considers on the high side, with implications for the green belt.
He agrees with Tory rebel Cllr Brian Crowe who recently dubbed the figure ‘an aspiration for growth’ rather than being evidence-based.
Mr Jones, 27, told The Chronicle : “I had been making inquiries regarding discrepancies between approved methodology in plan making and the council’s methodology.”
Mr Jones contacted the council’s former monitoring officer over the issue who advised that, if he had evidence, he should report it to police.
“Subsequently I contacted the police who were surprisingly helpful and requested many documents. In the meantime, while the police were investigating, I made a complaint of maladministration through the council’s complaints procedure, for which I am still awaiting a final response.”
Planning minister Nick Boles made clear any development plan must be evidence-based on a recent visit to Chester organised by city MP Stephen Mosley.
He said: “The politics, in any direction, of aspiration and growth or of restraint and protection of land, that should come in the later phase of what are we going to do, not in the up-front phase of what is the objective evidence telling us?”
Mr Boles explained that an inspector would test the robustness of the evidence at a public enquiry.
A Cheshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Cheshire police received a complaint in relation to Cheshire West and Chester Council.
“The complainant has made a complaint to the council. Police are waiting on the result of its findings to establish if any police involvement is required.”
Council spokesman Ian Callister said the police had made it clear they were not currently ‘investigating’ the complaint.
He added: “Mr Jones has made a complaint to this authority and is well aware that his concern over the housing figures will be aired in full by the independent inspector at the plan’s forthcoming examination in public.”