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Development in Sandbach refused for second time

Developers hoping to build a retail park and new homes in Sandbach have seen the plans rejected for the second time in six months.

Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board unanimously rejected Muller Property Group’s plans for a major development south of Old Mill Road – off the A534 – at Wednesday’s meeting.

The firm wanted to build a discount supermarket, petrol station with food retail kiosk, a restaurant, a café and two smaller retail units – along with a care home, 85 new properties and the conversion of existing buildings into four homes.

But CEC officers insisted the scheme would damage Sandbach town centre and should be rejected – while 66 objections had also been sent into the council against the scheme.

Councillor Mike Benson, Conservative CEC member for Sandbach Town, ‘strongly objected’ to the plans and insisted the scheme went against the town’s neighbourhood plan, which residents voted for in 2016.

He said: “If granted, the site would result in a substantial loss of habitat which we can ill afford to lose – particularly when so much has already been lost to developments in the area.

“This would also have a significant and detrimental effect on Sandbach town centre and its viability.

“Everything must be done to support high streets and town centres and this application would undermine it.

“The hard work of our community in producing a properly-structured neighbourhood plan and the strenuous efforts made by the business community must not be set aside in favour of a development which would cause real harm to the town.”

CEC officers had considered the scheme’s environmental impact to be acceptable – with the land already having planning permission for up to 200 homes.

Instead, they were concerned about the scheme’s design and the possibility it would take trade away from Sandbach town centre.

Matthew Wedderburn, the agent acting on behalf of Muller, insisted the issues had been overstated – and claimed the officers’ reasons for refusal did not ‘reflect the significant improvements that have been made’ to the scheme since the last application, which also had a farm shop and seven more homes.

He said: “Sandbach is a relatively strong centre and currently vacancy levels are relatively low.

“I think when you have a situation where a town centre is performing poorly, a small impact in terms of trade diversion could actually have a significant effect on a town centre.

“In this situation we would argue that the impact in terms of trade diversion from the town centre is relatively small, and given the health of the centre, will not have an overall detrimental effect.”

Mr Wedderburn added that Muller could still build the 200 homes it has planning permission for, but that the housing proposals were seen as a ‘fall-back’.

But councillors stood wholly against the scheme – and Conservative Councillor Stewart Gardiner, who recommended the scheme for refusal, was particularly critical of the location of the housing.

He said: “I very much that in future when we look at these schemes we do not as a matter of course allow the provision of new homes – particularly new homes designed for some of our most vulnerable residents – to run through a supermarket car park. There is no need for that to happen.”

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