COUNCIL leaders in west Cheshire have adopted the borough's Local Plan after ‘five long years of hard work, consultation, argument, scrutiny and debate’.

On Thursday, January 29, a special meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council overwhelmingly backed the framework for sustainable development and guidelines to protect the borough’s 'environment and character' until 2030.

With two members voting against, the meeting agreed the blueprint for development and prosperity, including the findings and recommendations of the Local Plan Inspector following its public examination last summer.

Cllr Lynda Jones, executive member for growth and innovation, told members: “The Local Plan strikes a balance between meeting our aspirations for economic growth and providing much needed new homes, whilst protecting our fantastic environment.”

And Winsford Cllr Brian Clarke, shadow portfolio holder, economic cevelopment and infrastructure, added: “All councils need a strategic framework to take their boroughs forward. Our plan takes into an account our neighbourhoods, neighbours and our regional aspirations but always remembering who we are making it for – our residents.”

The Local Plan will deliver around 22,000 new market and affordable homes and 365 hectares of employment land to create around 14,000 new jobs. It recommends that 5,200 new homes should be created in Chester; 4,800 in Ellesmere Port; 4,300 in Northwich; 3,500 in Winsford and 4,200 in rural areas.

The focus in Northwich is to allow a greater level of development to regenerate the large number of brownfield sites in the town. This will support the Council’s ongoing work to comprehensively regenerate the town centre, most importantly through the Barons Quay scheme which will transform the town into a shopping and visitor destination.

And in Winsford the Local Plan has been prepared alongside the Winsford Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr Jones added: ““The two plans work together to achieve town centre regeneration and considerable new investment in new homes and employment opportunities. There is a strong focus on the environment and securing high quality public spaces including a new country park focussed on the Flashes.

“We are also supporting a managed level to come forward in the rural area to maintain vital and viable communities. The Local Plan provides a clear strategic framework for communities to develop neighbourhood plans in the rural area and elsewhere through which they can put in place local policies to address their own local priorities.

“Two have been adopted and a further 20 are now in preparation. It is fair to say that Cheshire West and Chester is amongst a small group of councils leading the way nationally on neighbourhood planning.”

In contrast, Cheshire East Council's Local Plan is back on the drawing board, with an update not expected until this summer.