Cheshire County Council is well advanced in putting into place a strategic framework for the period up to 2011. The Cheshire Structure Plan document, Cheshire 2011, is due to be adopted early this year, although the process has not been without some heated debate along the way.

Regional planning guidance for the north-west recognises that the region has not performed well in attracting inward investment in the past 15 years, particularly from investors without prior experience of the area.

To address this issue, and in accordance with regional guidance, the recent structure plan process identified two major business development sites in the mid-Cheshire area.

One is on the west side of Gabrook Park, south of Northwich, for business use. The other is at Lostockgraham, east of Northwich, for warehouse and distribution purposes.

Both are greenfield sites. When balanced against environmental factors and traffic concerns, the Examination In Public (EIP) Panel, in considering objections to the plan, was not convinced of regional need and recommended that both sites should be dropped from the Structure Plan.

In response, the county has scrapped plans for the site west of Gabrook Park, but it is still pursuing the allocation at Lostockgraham.

Elsewhere, the futures of two large inward investment sites in Crewe have been secured. This follows the survival of the A500 bypass from the government's trunk roads review in early 1998. Known as Basford West and Basford East, the two sites will provide for around 150ha (370 acres) of employment-related uses between them.

The route of the proposed A500 bypass adjoins the land on its southern boundary and will provide direct vehicular access. At Basford West, the site will also provide for road/rail terminal facilities.

As always, provision for housing has proved to be a contentious part of the Structure Plan review. The EIP panel concluded that an additional 33,000 dwellings should be provided across the county up to 2011.

However, the county intends to reduce this figure by 2,000. This decision is partly due to Green-belt constraints in Macclesfield Borough and Chester City Council. It is also due to a reduction of 1,000 dwellings on the EIP figure at Crewe and Nantwich, where, despite business growth, land for 7,600 dwellings has already been identified.

The county has concluded that any additional residential provision in the borough is unlikely to be achieved in the Structure Plan period because this would involve exceeding the house-building rates.