Families 'held to ransom' by homes project
A COUNCIL leader says residents are being 'held to ransom' by the Duchy of Lancaster over plans for a new housing development.
Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, below, spoke frankly with homeowners in Barthomley about plans to build 1,000 new houses near their village.
Mr Jones described how the council is working with royal land owners the Duchy of Lancaster to facilitate turning that stretch of the A500 into a dual carriageway to improve connections to Crewe.
But it is understood that Duchy land will only become available to create four lanes on the major road between Junction 16 of the M6, if controversial plans for a 'satellite village' get the go ahead.
Mr Jones has faced strong opposition to plans for the development, as residents feel the council is sacrificing their quality of life to improve infrastructure.
But the council leader said: "The roads are our responsibility but the Duchy has a ransom hold on the roads because it is their land. They are one of the few people that we cannot hand Compulsory Purchase Orders to. That is the reality and we have to live with that."
Adrian Fisher, the council's strategic planning and housing manager, confirmed the Duchy would contribute a to the cost of the work, which the council claims would attract new business opportunities.
But more than 100 residents attended the public meeting to question the council leader on where his loyalties lie.
Viv Belcher, the chairman of Barthomley action group said: "I think we have aired our views but I don't think the leader will take them on board.
"He was very careful about what he said and I think even if the A500 isn't 'dualled' the development will still go ahead."
Residents asked why alternatives to 'dualling' the road had not been considered such as an underpass to deal with congestion, or a roundabout.
Viv said: "I was very surprised to hear these had not even been considered as I think we were expecting the council to come here with good reasons for why these can't be viable alternatives."
Councillor Jones said he regretted having to deal with confrontation.
He added: "I would rather not have this confrontation with you but when developers are coming forward about land all around this area I have to come up with a plan."
But residents say the council should beware 'who they jump into bed with' when houses and jobs farm land could be at risk.
Claire Horrocks, aged 47, from Oakhanger, who sits on the action group, said: "I struggle to see how a satellite village for commuters is going to help regenerate Crewe. It is taking away land from people who have farmed it for generations."