Kingsley Village
in the heart of Cheshire

Kingsley Parish Council have received the attached reply from Kingsley Green Belt Action Group ( KGBAG) in response to a request made by The Chairman to clarify the situation regarding monies raised by KGBAG through crowdfunding and pledges. The Chairman also requested KGBAG’s assessment in respect of KTI monies which are currently held in suspense in Kingsley Parish Council Accounts.

The following is a response to an email from Kingsley Parish Council requesting information on the planning application for Higher Heyes development and the formation of Kingsley Green Belt Action Group (KGBAG) that resulted from this.

When the application for 15 houses was submitted to Cheshire West & Cheshire planning it was announced in the Kingsley News and a number of immediate neighbours got together to find out more, lay out objections as to why they thought it was the wrong thing in the wrong place and garner both Parish Council and Kingsley village support so that objections could be submitted on the CWaC portal in plenty of time for the actual planning meeting.

A group of people attended the June Parish Council meeting and the Parish Council agreed to call a public meeting after seeing public strength of feeling on the matter.  The public meeting was so the developers could explain their plans and answer questions. A pre-meeting meeting was then held on 10 July 2017 at the Village Institute to discuss and help people with what should be asked at the public meeting.  58 people attended that meeting and it was agreed that questions would be put around the following arguments against the application:

  • Demonstration of need for new housing in the village - affordable homes in Pike Lane were built in 2009 after the Parish Council conducted a Housing Needs Survey and found a suitable brownfield site.
    • Marley Tiles (approx 2 miles away) also has approval for circa 166 new homes and a number of new builds were being built in Norley as well as approval for 12 houses at Forest School.
  • Inappropriate development on greenbelt/prime agricultural land when nearby brownfield sites (Marley Tiles/Forest School) have permission already.
  • Suitability and position: The location of this field is on the edge of the village boundary and therefore inappropriate for affordable housing which should really be closer to village amenities such as schools, shops and public transport etc
  • Being on the edge of the village and at the top of a steep hill (Top Road) means people from the houses, especially mothers with youngsters and/or push chairs, are more likely to drive rather than tackle the steep hill in and out of the village centre where the amenities are (school, shops and bus stop).  This will further exacerbate the traffic situation on the road, especially Hollow Lane and the junctions in and out of the village.
  • Lack of suitable infrastructure: the roads and drains around Higher Heyes are not currently suitable for an increase in traffic and population.
  • Positioning of the new houses: Neighbours adjoining the field were also worried about how close the new houses would be to their gardens with loss of privacy, light, view and an increase in overall noise.

Over 80 people turned up at the public meeting organised by the parish Council on 12 July 2017 where it became apparent that neither the developer nor the CWaC representative was able, or willing, to answer questions put to them by the public on matters such as cost, need, drainage or highways issues.

An unofficial action group and web site were later set up to aid and advise those people that wanted to object via the Council portal (as the Council representative told everybody that objections and/or support submitted via the portal meant they would be kept informed on dates for the planning meeting and changes in application and plans etc).

The plans were changed a number of times without people being advised via the portal and the eventual planning meeting was videoed and available to watch via the Internet.  The meeting was badly run and infuriating to watch, and the plans passed by 6 votes to 5 in what appeared to be party voting. My observations at the time, published in a newsletter to people signed up on the mailing list were:

- The Housing Needs Survey was manipulated to suit the developer as they changed the acceptable response rate of 30% down to the 20% they actually received.

- They didn't prove the need, not only for these houses but any and completely ignored both people who represented us (one planning Councillor's comments made it look like he clearly hadn't listened to any of the arguments against or even read what had been submitted on the portal by members of the public).

- They ignored Greenbelt policies as well as the will of both the village people and the Parish Council

- Last minute changes to the plans were not published (people who signed up on the portal are supposed to be kept up to date on updates).  The latest plan was not circulated and only presented at the committee meeting. It should also be noted that this was not circulated to anybody signed up on the portal.

- No time was given for the public to discuss the last minute change of plan (having given time previously to comment on the first and second set of plans)

At the December 2017 Parish Council meeting councilors agreed that CWaC planning had handled the application badly though, at the time, nobody knew what was required legally but there was the possibility of a Judicial Review which would possibly cost tens of thousands. Therefore the Parish Council accepted KGBAG representations & resolved to take advice on the prospects in respect of overturning the conditional planning approved by CWAC Planning Committee.

Note: KGBAG's role was to help raise money to help towards the Parish Council  challenge of the planning decision and a possible judicial review

From the December 2017 minutes it was “RESOLVED THAT:

  • Kingsley Parish Council take advice from a solicitor  
  • To investigate funding for any legal costs incurred  
  • To form a Working Group to further the investigations

KGBAG members were also invited to join the Parish Council working group.

At the February 2018 Parish Council meeting “Simon Sherlock drew attention to fact that the agenda had misrepresented the wishes of the KTI group when donating the sum of £2218.95 as the original request was that the money be used for the Community Fund work but that a proportion of that money be used to help cover the costs of the work taking place to challenge the proposed development at Higher Heyes. He also asked that "the Parish Council will honour the wishes of the KTI and allocate a proportion of this money to help towards the legal advice the Parish Council is taking to fight this planning permission." Chris Burrow asked what contribution KPC would make towards the legal advice being sought regarding the Higher Heyes Development. Councillors then discussed the matter of the KTI donation. Cllr Moores believed that when the money was first offered in Jan / Feb 2017, it was done so on the basis that it would be used wholly for the Community Fund. Cllr Molyneux suggested that as it was originally KTI money and it was members of that group, which although now disbanded, who have asked for the money to be used towards payment of legal advice, then those wishes should be respected. Council felt that due to the extraordinary position we are now in given the proposed development at Higher Heyes (all of which has superseded the original position with regard to the generous KTI donation) and the legal advice that KPC has agreed to pursue, the suggestion by Councillor Molyneux would be a sensible and pragmatic way forward”

However, further investigation by members of KTI showed that the KTI monies could not be used by (the now formed) KGBAG as they are not a registered charity and the KTI constitution stated that monies left over after the dissolution of KTI could only be given to a charity.  This also means that KTI were in breach of their constitution when offering the money to the Community Fund. The Parish Council are currently holding the money on behalf of the dissolved KTI while ex-members of KTI work out what can be done next with said monies.

In the April 2018 Parish Council minutes it states “Ms K Harrison raised the proposed development of Higher Heyes and asked whether Kingsley Parish Council would be willing to match fund the crowd funding monies that had already been raised by Kingsley Green Belt Action Group.”.  It should be noted that when the crowd funding was set up it was to help the Parish Council with costs incurred taking legal advice and not necessarily to fund said legal advice in full.

After legal advice came in it became clear to all that there was only a 25% chance of a Judicial Review succeeding and nothing to stop the developers changing their plans and reapplying (note that KGBAG have not seen this document).  However, it was agreed by the Parish Council and KGBAG that this was too small a margin to warrant spending the amount of money required when that money could be better used elsewhere. Further details on this can be found in the May 2018 Parish Council minutes (item 18/096).

In light of a late objection to the planning application by Cheshire West LLFA (Lead Local Flood Authority), which objects to the proposed Higher Heyes Drive development on the grounds that it does not fulfil United Utilities’ requirements for handling of surface runoff water KGBAG (in May 2018) informed the Parish Council  that they intend to use their crowd funding and anonymous pledges to fund a drainage consultant and take technical advice as well as “future legal advice on further development of the Higher Heyes site or other greenbelt proposed developments”

It should be noted the crowd funding monies and pledges were donations and pledges made to the KGBAG and therefore the Parish Council had no authority or mandate to direct use of any funds generated. The fund was totally at the discretion of the officers of KGBAG.

Regards,

Kingsley Green Belt Action Group

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