Plans have now been lodged for a major housing development on the site of a garden centre which has been described as an ‘irreplaceable’ social hub.

More than 50 affordable homes could be built on land off Chester Road in Great Sutton, where the Sycamore Park Garden Centre currently stands.

An application for planning permission has been submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council by Lane End Developments, who are also behind the plans to knock down the Grace Arms pub in Ellesmere Port to make way for apartments.

Lane End are working in partnership with Liverpool-based Riverside Housing Association on the Sycamore Gardens project. The proposed scheme is for 38 houses and 14 two-bedroom apartments which will be developed for shared ownership and affordable rent.

Riverside said the development “will provide a range of much needed new homes for the community.”

However, the closure of the garden centre – which is also home to a popular cafe and craft shop – would result in job losses and a number of objections have already been lodged by residents on the council’s website.

David Morgan, of Great Sutton, said: “The garden centre, apart from its primary function of providing customers with their gardening requirements, is a vital social hub for local people of all ages.

“Numerous elderly folk frequent the Sycamore café taking advantage of the ‘pensioner rates’ for the quality meals on offer and view it as an important social event in their weekly lives.

“Many other people use the café as a meeting point throughout the day and children of all ages, including our own grandchildren, love the cafe, the craft section and enjoy visiting the aquatic area to purchase food and filters for their pet goldfish.

“It is an irreplaceable social centre and business providing enjoyment and employment that that would be sadly missed by many people if it were to disappear.”

Stacey Greer, also of Great Sutton, wrote: “It would be a great shame to the community as well as the wildlife to see it (the garden centre) taken away for the sake of houses and flats, which could be planted anywhere within Ellesmere Port.”

Another Great Sutton resident, Simon Hidderley, said: “I speak on behalf of many local residents who are deeply concerned about the negative impact this development could pose to our community.”

Residents also raised concerns over increased traffic, parking issues and the impact on wildlife in the area.

A Save Sycamore Park Garden Centre group has been started on Facebook and now has more than 280 ‘likes’.

It is not the first time the site has been a target for developers.

In 2006, plans for a residential development comprising 60 dwellings at the garden centre site were refused by what was then Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council. There were concerns at the time over a number of factors including parking, access, ‘loss of employment’ at the garden centre and also protected trees in close proximity to the development.

The land is owned by Falkirk firm Klondike & Strykes, the owners of the garden centre itself.

The latest proposals will go before a council planning committe on a date which has yet to be decided.