OLYMPIC legend Sir Steve Redgrave believes his planned world-class sports institute will be worth sacrificing Chester’s precious green belt.
Five-time gold medal winner Sir Steve wants to bring the proposed Redgrave Institute to Chester but has made it clear the city must also accept the controversial student village.
Outlining his vision to put Chester on the sporting map in Mollington yesterday, Sir Steve said without the student village his institute would not be sustainable.
He said: “The question that being asked is if this a project worth releasing land for. If I did not think it was the right thing to do I would not be behind it.
“There is the debate about location but in reality it is the best site but, of course, it is in the planners hands. There is a definite groundswell of enthusiasm for the institute to be brought to Chester.
“If the student village does not happen then the level of investment for the Redgrave Institute is not there. There has got to be a process that works for all.”
Bell Developments wants to build the 2,300-bed student village on green belt land between Blacon and Mollington.
Owners Mike and Dave Bell submitted revised plans for the £100 million scheme last month incorporating the Redgrave Institute.
Sir Steve said should the student village plans fail, he would look at other locations in the city but reiterated his belief the green belt site was the best option.
He said: “It must be noted that this is not an elite project. It is not just about setting up an institute for one particular sport, it is about enhancing this communities facilities.
“There is a lot of excitement about this project.
“I hope it will put Chester on the map. The university is very much in favour of what we stand for."
Sir Steve confirmed his team had opened new offices in Mollington Grange, close to the land earmarked for development. He said his institute would include an elite fitness suite, sports science laboratory and physiotherapy suite and would be open to the whole community.
Bell Developments has been told it must prove ‘very special circumstances’ to gain permission for the scheme and withdrew its original plans following talks with planning officers.
Opponents argue the plans will destroy will destroy acres of valuable land and threaten the character of the city.
'We won't be held to ransom over green belt'
CAMPAIGNERS insist they will ‘not be held to ransom’ over the fate of the greenbelt.
Parkgate Road resident Andy Scargill has led the campaign against the proposed student village from the beginning along with Blacon resident Yvonne Jones,
He said: “We are not prepared to be held to ransom over the greenbelt.
“Our view is simply that while we support Sir Steve Redgrave and his bid to join in with the city we are not prepared to support it at the cost of the greenbelt land in Mollington.
“We would like to see Sir Steve work with the council and other relevant parties to find a suitable site for his proposed sports institute, away from the Mollington site.
Mr Scargill said he supported the idea of the Redgrave Institute but would fight the current plans to the end.
He said: “It is very sad if Sir Steve feels that the best place to build his sports institute is on Bell Developments’ field.”