Plans to build student homes on Chester bus depot site approved

Reporter:

David Triggs

Plans to build student homes on Chester's Stagecoach bus depot have been given the green light.

The proposals drew criticism from residents and City of Chester MP Chris Matheson when they were unveiled at a public consultation in June, with fears the area is already heavily populated with student accommodation. 

But at Tuesday's Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee meeting, the plans - for 323 units of purpose-built managed student accommodation on the site between Liverpool Road and Victoria Road, close to the University of Chester - were voted through. 

The developers behind the project are Watkin Jones and the blocks will be managed by Fresh Student Living, who also look after nearby schemes at Abbey Gate, the Towpath and Tramways. 

Cllr Richard Beacham, of the Newton ward, told the meeting: "The biggest concern is that these developments are using land that would be better suited to tackling the serious problem of a lack of suitable housing for families looking to take their first steps." 

Cllr Beacham added: "When is enough enough? Where do we draw the line?"

Cllr Jill Houlbrook felt the location was perhaps the "right place" for student accommodation but described the design as "quite overbearing". 

Cllr Houlbrook said: "If they'd come along with a design that fitted in, and was less ambitious in terms of trying to cram a lot of students into one place, then I might be thinking differently. But I'm not at all sure that this is the right building in the right place."

Residents, particularly those in Abbots Nook and the Abbots Wood retirement home nearby, objected in their numbers to the plans, while city MP Mr Matheson said this summer that the plans were all about "developers trying to make a fast buck on any spare bit of land in Chester".

Cllr Peter Rooney told Tuesday's meeting he "quite liked" the design, adding: "It's not the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but it's not horrendous is it?" 

Others in favour included Cllr Norman Wright, who said: "I would have thought residents would have welcomed this. It's good for Chester."

But Cllr Gill Watson of the Newton ward was unhappy with the "incongruous" and "dominating" design, plus the fact the development was adjacent to a small conservation area. 

The plans, which had been recommended for approval, were voted through 7-3. 

Stagecoach have lodged planning applications with Flintshire County Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council for a replacement depot on land at one end of Chester FC’s car park off Sovereign Way, which straddles the England-Wales border.

Email:

david.triggs@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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