INFRASTRUCTURE and flood risk – two bones of contention on recent housing developments – will come into focus as councillors review Cheshire West’s local plan.

The first part of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s local plan was approved in January 2015, with a commitment to build 22,000 new homes across the borough by 2030.

But developments are being built much faster than expected, and former CWAC leader Cllr Mike Jones has warned that if the current rate continues, all the land set aside for new homes in the local plan will be used by 2023.

That is a problem for CWAC, as it means the council will no longer be able to meet the legal requirement for land supply – making it easier for developers to secure planning permission on less suitable sites and more difficult for the council to defend appeals.

Cllr Jones, Conservative CWAC member for Tattenhall, told Monday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting: “What you effectively do is hand over control of housing delivery from the council and its planning policy, to the developers – and that’s the concern.

Winsford Guardian:

“I think we’ve got an issue in terms of making sure we are in control of our planning system for the plan period.”

A group of four councillors will consider land allocations in the review, along with the need for more infrastructure and the impact of climate change.

A key cause for concern at new developments is flood risk and how climate change will affect it – such as at the Dane Valley scheme in Northwich, where developers won an appeal to build 227 homes.

Recent developments have also come in for criticism over a lack of infrastructure improvements – for example in Hartford, where there is still no GP practice despite hundreds of new homes being built.

Cllr Jones added: “If you are going to have more land and overachieve on your housing in that period, it does have an impact on some of the infrastructure. Doctors surgeries, schools – that has been a massive problem around the rural areas.”

A report presented at Monday’s meeting suggested that CWAC is exceeding its housing targets for the local plan period – which ends in 2030.

Labour Cllr Richard Beacham, CWAC cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, suggested the local plan ‘is currently doing what it should be’.

However, Government calculations for the number of new homes needed in the borough have changed since the local plan was adopted – from 1,100 new homes a year down to 608.

But councillors agreed that the review should not consider reducing the number of new homes needed over the next decade – with Cllr Jones warning that producing the local plan ‘is a very lengthy process’.

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He added: “I think if we open that can of worms, we are in for a very long-term review of the plan, and I think that would be a very dangerous thing to do for the council.”

Labour’s Cllr Steve Collings and Cllr Mandy Clare will join Conservatives Cllr Jones and Cllr Helen Weltman on a task group to conduct the review this year.