FRODSHAM and Helsby will merge and lose their identities when new homes are built between the two communities.
This is the concern of dozens of residents who wrote to Cheshire West and Chester Council to object to an application for 23 affordable homes on Green Belt land opposite Helsby High School.
And their fears were realised on Tuesday this week when members of the authority's planning committee voted six to five in favour of approving the proposals.
'Very special circumstances' must be shown by a developer before permission is given to build on the Green Belt.
Locals say a precedent has now been set with the floodgates open for a surge of planning applications for the fields between Helsby village and Frodsham town.
The result would be a merger of the two conurbations to form one large 'Frodsby' community.
Resident Christopher Martin was the first speaker at the meeting and said he represented 81 Helsby residents who opposed the application by MCI Developments for land east of Proffits Lane.
He said there were easily enough brown fields sites in the village to accommodate new housing without resorting to building on the Green Belt.
“We are worried about the precedent this will set,” he told the committee.
Sarah Temple, of Helsby Parish Council, told members there was already a plan in place to provide 380 new homes by 2030, including 63 affordable ones.
“Helsby doesn't need or want this development,” she added.
Cllr Lynn Riley, who represents the Frodsham ward, agreed that no one wanted Frodsham and Helsby to merge.
“We are very fond of our nearest neighbours in Helsby but Frodsham and Helsby are very distinct places,” she said. “People quite clearly identify with coming from either Frodsham or Helsby.”
The site of the new development represents a “blob” that will “close the gap between the two communities”, Cllr Riley said
“We won't know where one starts and the other begins,” she added.
However, Andrew Jalali of Mosaic Town Planning, representing the applicant, stressed that a recent housing need survey had identified 31 people in need of affordable housing.
Cllr Peter Rooney was the first committee member to speak up in favour of the application.
“I think it's a great development!” he said. “It's a small field. Is it really going to join the conurbations of Frodsham and Helsby if we put some houses on a small piece of land?”
Cllr Tom Blackmore agreed, saying: “That piece [of land] should be built on. It won't join Frodsham and Helsby.”
An initial motion to reject the plans was defeated 6-5, with a subsequent motion to approve passed by the same narrow margin.
The application had been recommended for approval by the council's planning team.
See full story in the Chester Leader