Chester floodplain homes plan shot down by council committee

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

IT TOOK less than 10 minutes for a council committee to reject plans to build 280 new homes on a Chester floodplain yesterday.

Ospitium 4 Ltd, part of Astu Hotels, had applied to create a nine-hectare development, named Ogilvie Park, north of Sealand Road.

All the homes would be made available for rent and would be accompanied by a nursery, park, lake, and £4 million of flood defences.

But the plans were quickly blasted out of the water by members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee.

Cllr Eleanor Johnson was first to speak – and immediately proposed rejecting the plans, describing the development as looking like something from the Soviet era.

“It reminds me of something you see on TV that was built around Chernobyl,” she said.

It was “unthinkable” and “asking for trouble” to build on floodplains when other sites for housing have been identified, she said.

Her motion was quickly seconded by Cllr Don Beckett and unanimously passed five minutes later to the applause of residents who had packed the meeting room at Council HQ.

Campaigner Andy Scargill, of Friends of North Chester Greenbelt (FNCG), spoke at the start of the meeting having previously branded any attempt to build on floodplains as “absolute madness”.

Giving a brief history of the area, he said the River Dee had been diverted through an artificial channel in 1736 to keep ships sailing into Chester.

“So what we have now is an artificial river following an artificial route and should it overtop badly or even breach then all the waters would return to their natural course which is directly over the site you are looking at today,” he said.

Having met with engineers from the Environment Agency, he said it had become clear it was a question of when, rather than if the embankment breached.

Mr Scargill said the applicant’s approach was to build homes on concrete tubes, acting like stilts, so flood water would flow beneath the buildings.

“It’s quite frankly a nonsense,” he said. “You couldn’t make it up!”

The Ogilvie Park plan is the latest in a string of largely doomed applications relating to the city’s floodplains.

Proposals by Bloor Homes to build 130 homes close to nearby Clifton Drive have now fallen by the wayside following council refusal and an abandoned appeal.

However, Bark Street Investment Ltd are still awaiting the Government’s decision on an application for 142 homes on playing fields in the same area.

The company had seen its plans rejected by CWaC and the Secretary of State, only for that decision to be overturned by the High Court and passed back to the Government office for a fresh inquiry.

In her detailed report to the council committee on Ogilvie Park, planning officer Bethany Brown outlined seven reasons the plans should be thrown out.

It is not yet known if Ospitium 4 Ltd plans to appeal against yesterday’s decision.

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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