The deputy leader of the council has blasted residents’ ‘woeful’ response to a survey which could rescue the town’s countryside from developers.
Coun David Brown issued an urgent plea for people to stand up and be counted before it’s too late - revealing that just 145 responses have been returned from a population of more than 240,000. He was referring to a scheme which Cheshire East is developing to define Macclesfield’s development over the next 20 years.
It includes plans for 3,500 new homes as well as employment sites, schools, health services and transport links.
It is open to public consultation yet council bosses say they have so far had 145 comments from people living in the six towns which are part of the overall borough plan. He said the figure is woeful and he is astonished at the lack of replies.
The council has now put Alton Towers tickets up for grabs for those who complete the survey – and leader Coun Michael Jones even offered to go to meetings and be ‘beaten up’ if that’s what it takes to get people interested in the issue.
He made the tongue-in-cheek jibe as he appealed for people to get involved at the Make It Macclesfield Business Breakfast on Friday.
A housing shortage means CEC must provide 3,500 new houses in Macclesfield by 2030 and consideration of where to build these is a key part of the plan.
By law the council must look at ‘all available options’ so 10 sites on which 10,000-15,000 new homes could be built are included, many of them in the greenbelt. Coun Jones told the meeting: "These are some of the most difficult conversations. "If we built on all these sites we would probably have around 10-15,000 houses, we’re not looking anywhere near that.
"This is a chance to put a marker down for the next 20 years.
"I am willing to go to any meeting, get beaten up, get shouted at, because it is emotive. "We’re surrounded by beautiful countryside, but we don’t want to see it concreted over."
Once responses have been received and considered, decisions can be made on which sites to use and which to protect. Earlier Coun Jones said Maxonians should take their lead from Wilmslow where their town plan caused an outcry and CEC received more than 1,500 objections. A revised plan for the town was published last week with many of the sites removed or marked as protected. Coun Jones said: "We need your opinions to protect your towns and villages.
"Some say that Cheshire East Council does not listen, but as leader I can give examples of where residents have spoken up for themselves and have been listened to and have enjoyed a consultation victory.
"In Wilmslow where people were consulted on the Wilmslow Vision, also part of the Local Plan consultation, the community pulled together to make sure their views were heard by submitting around 1,500 completed questionnaires. That’s the sort of spirit we want."
Deputy Leader Coun David Brown said: "I am absolutely astonished. We are a traditional rural area and we have the chance to keep it like that and to influence where developments can and can’t go. But the issue is being met with an almost stony silence. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, grab it with both hands - 145 responses at this stage is woeful and I’m just hoping that it’s because people are too busy.
"I can guarantee that if you do make the time to fill out a consultation form, it will be one of the best investments you’ll make for you and your family’s future."
Macclesfield MP David Rutley told the business breakfast: "This is big, it’s huge.
"I have very strong views about this stuff but it’s vital you get your views on the table."
The plan and questionnaires can be picked up in hard copy from any council sites including the town hall or you can view it at cheshireast.gov.uk/localplan \z and submit your views.
The consultation closes on October 1.
The ten sites under consideration are: A) Land to the North of Birtles Road (900 houses) B) Land to the West of Priory Lane (300 houses and relocation of the rugby club) C) Land north of Prestbury Road (360 houses) D) Land at Tytherington Business Park (150 homes or employment E) Land between Hurdsfield Road and Buxton Road (240 homes) F) Land East of London Road (1200 houses, employment, or a mix of both) G) Land at Gaw End Lane (850 houses) H) South Macclesfield Development Area (450 homes and new football stadium) I) Land between Congleton Road and Chelford Road (3,000 houses) J) Land between Chelford Road and Whirley (700 homes)