COUNCIL chiefs want the public to have its say on controversial plans to build thousands of new homes.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) says 5,250 homes are needed in Chester by 2030 and proposes building 2,000 in the greenbelt.
The housing requirement is outlined in the council’s emerging local plan designed to shape future planning policies.
The authority proposes building 21,000 new homes across the borough although Chester is the only area where greenfield land is under threat.
But opponents question whether so many homes are needed and believe the greenbelt must be preserved.
CWaC has now launched the first formal phase of an extensive public consultation on the draft local plan with residents being asked how many new homes they believe are needed and where they should be built.
Council leader Mike Jones said: “The local plan is one of the most important blueprints for the future of our borough and it is vital residents help to shape its policies.
“I would urge people to consider the particular challenges facing Chester’s economic growth and the exceptional circumstances which we believe justify an alteration to the greenbelt on the edge of the city.
“This would involve development on a very small percentage of land – as little as 0.2 percent of the borough’s total greenbelt area – to accommodate approximately 2,000 homes.
“As an authority we have a duty to review all the options to ensure we can present the local plan inspector with a robust, soundly developed set of policies. Having no local plan would expose the green belt and rural area to inappropriate development.
This is why it is so important we follow a proper process.”
The council’s spatial planning team is attending community forums across the borough during September and October to explain what the proposals could mean for each area.
Members will be at the Handbridge forum on September 12, Hoole, Upton and Newton forum on September 17 and the city centre forum on September 25.
Cllr Herbert Manley, executive member for prosperity, said: “We are at the beginning of a two-year process that will involve further rounds of consultation and an examination in public before the local plan is adopted in 2014.
“The feedback from the forums will be crucial to shaping the Plan as it moves forward.”
For more details about the upcoming community forums email spatialplanning@ cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk or call 01244 973887.
City MP adds weight to campaign
CITY MP Stephen Mosley has added his weight to the campaign to protect the greenbelt around Chester.
He said the council had so far failed to provide satisfactory reasons for building on greenfield sites and said the plans would threaten the city’s character.
“Chester’s greenbelt was created to prevent urban sprawl and to ensure Chester retains its setting as a small, compact, historic city,” he said.
“Planning law states development on greenbelt land should only occur in exceptional circumstances and there is a great deal of local concern Chester’s greenbelt should be protected for future generations.
“In its proposals, the council continually refers to the exceptional circumstances they believe justify building on greenbelt land, yet they fail to identify what indeed these exceptional circumstances are.
“I believe large scale development in the greenbelt will threaten the character of our city and development should be encouraged towards the plentiful supply of brownfield sites in West Cheshire rather than in the greenbelt.