There is a national need for more housing (but we’re not sure if this national need is for more homes, or to keep builders and suppliers in business, or a bit of both), but Congleton seems to be overwhelmed with planning applications for greenfield sites, with no proposals to address the necessary associated infrastructure (e.g. health provision, school places, shops), let alone within walking/cycling distance, which are essential to avoid traffic and parking pressures.
There is also a local need for more employment opportunities in the town, to save commuting time, costs and pressures on infrastructure, to reduce pollution, and to keep money in the town to be spent in the town.
Another problem that has become very apparent in recent years is that of flooding – caused by the combination of heavy continued rainfall and increased runoff from solid surfaces. Flooding is fine in flood meadows and marshes, but when it hits homes, offices, factories and agriculture, it causes untold misery, expensive damage to property and businesses, and high costs to local councils dealing with the emergencies and consequences.
The sustainable route is to avoid developing sites vulnerable to flooding and to choose instead brownfield sites (ie previously developed commercial sites) and sites where housing once featured. Also to ensure there is due regard to the runoff and drainage problems (porous materials for paths, drives and hardstandings are now recommended), and that the new occupants can easily use one or a mix of sustainable transport modes (walk, cycle, bus, train) to make their local journeys to work, school, evening classes, shops, leisure centre and entertainment venues. For commercial premises, the same principles apply, with the need for staff to be able to make their work-related journeys using sustainable transport.
When it comes to detail, the buildings permitted should be designed and constructed for maximum energy savings, to minimise the costs of occupying them.
What can we do in Congleton to ensure we have sustainable development? As individuals, we can keep up to date on developments via Protect Congleton – Civic Society, and make our views know to Cheshire East and Congleton Town Council. In particular it’s important that as many people as possible read and respond to any consultations on local plans, so keep an eye on this section of Protect Congleton’s site. It’s vital that locals fully understand the plans, the rationale, and the impact, so that Cheshire East gets it right.
Looking around Congleton now, you can see Mountbatten Way separating two parts of the town centre, two prominent shoeboxes containing the police station and the library, and the Darth Vadar wall of what was Safeway’s and is now Morrison’s. How were these marvels allowed to happen?