Seashell Trust submits planning appeal

Artist's impression of new school

Seashell Trust has submitted an appeal against the decision of Stockport Council Planning Committee which earlier this year refused permission for a school and campus transformation on the site at Cheadle Hulme.

The Board of Trustees of Seashell Trust which provides education and support for children and young adults with extremely complex disabilities, this week filed its appeal against the decision which they believe is ‘fundamentally flawed and grossly unfair’ and has pledged to fight for the future of its students.

Chief Executive and School Principal Mark Geraghty said of the appeal: “It was a huge blow having the application refused and we were very disappointed, especially as the councillors ignored the advice of their own professional, qualified Planning Officers.

“We considered our options and we quickly realised that we had no choice but to appeal against the decision. As anyone who has cared for someone with special needs will understand, these children and young adults deserve to have someone in their corner and we believe this decision is wrong and unfair and we intend to fight it on their behalf.

“We have filed our appeal and Stockport Council will now have to defend their decision which will cost them money they really didn’t need to spend. We spent over two years preparing our application, we answered every question asked of us and we believe we have clearly demonstrated very special circumstances. We fully expect to win consent for our application.”

The Trust has applied for a £45m new school and campus transformation which would be funded in part by the sale of land with planning permission for around 325 homes.

A meeting of the Planning Committee in January of this year voted to refuse planning permission for the scheme because they said the very special circumstances needed to justify development on Green Belt land had not been met and that the housing element of the scheme had not met the affordable homes threshold set by the Council.

The decision followed more than two years of work to develop the application which had been recommended for approval by planning officers from Stockport Council. Since then the Trust has taken advice from its legal and planning team and this week the Trust submitted its appeal.

According to a report published in the Architects’ Journal UK, local authorities paid out a total of £11,965,077 in costs to developers following failed attempts to fight planning appeals in cases between 2010 and 2016, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests revealed.

Cornwall Council spent the most: It was penalised £981,332 for unsuccessful defences. Poole Borough Council had the highest number of cost decisions made against it – 30 – and Halton Borough Council paid out the highest average sum per lost appeal – £360,735. Costs for these losses are met from the local planning authority’s budget.

And according to the draft Stockport Council Plan 2018/19 the Council is facing a financial crisis and what Council Leader Councillor Alex Ganotis describes as ‘the biggest challenge in the history of Stockport Council’*. SMBC has already cut £100m from its budget and needs to find a further £50m of cuts by 2020.

The appeal will now be referred to the Planning Inspectorate.