CHESTER’S historic Shot Tower will be redeveloped for homes and shops after controversial plans were approved.
Neptune Developments and Chester and District Housing Trust have been given the go ahead to create 53 apartments together with eight retail units, cafe courtyard and heritage centre at the grade II listed landmark.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) strategic planning committee was divided over the plans but eventually approved them by four votes to three.
Boughton councillor David Robinson pleaded with the committee to turn the scheme down and said residents who saw the plans had asked him whether the developers were building a prison.
He said: “The regeneration of the canal through Boughton has been a great success – residents and visitors alike are proud of the canal and marvel at the history and grandeur of the leadworks.
“The view of the Shot Tower is a really important in Chester and I believe this scheme quashes it.”
Cllr Robinson said he feared the development would be regarded in the same way as Salmon Leap flaps or the Travelodge hotel near the fountains roundabout.
He said Neptune Developments’ Mann Island scheme in Liverpool had been nominated for the Carbuncle Cup – an annual award for Britain’s ugliest new building.
He said: “My concern is that we don’t make a mistake with this application lsimilar to other schemes in Chester.”
Cllr Robinson said the way the application had been handled was “strange”, having originally gone to CWaC’s planning committee on July 3.
The plans were on the verge of being thrown out before they were withdrawn to allow the developers to review the designs.
CWaC’s development planning manager Fiona Edwards said objectors had been “in no way disadvantaged” by the process.
Independent review panel Places Matter! considered the revised designs and said it supported the scheme, for which agent Rob Mason said funding was in place.
Chester Civic Trust, Chester Archaeology Society and Chester Canal Heritage Trust all opposed the plans, which involve demolishing some Grade II listed buildings.
John Herson, representing the three groups, called the proposals “horrific” and “crude”.
He said: “It will produce a brutal and gloomy development that looms over the canalside.
“These flats will look like a prison. There is no need to accept this ugly stop-gap application.”
The shot tower was built in the early 1800s and is the oldest remaining example in the UK. It has been empty since the leadworks closed in 2001.
Committee members Cllr Angela Claydon and Cllr Norman Wright agreed the proposed scheme was unacceptable.
Cllr Claydon, who was present when the application was first considered, said: “It still gives me that impression of a workhouse.
“It’s clearly better than having an empty site but in my view it’s not the best it could be and that’s the issue.
“I don’t think enough has changed to make me change my mind.”
Principal planning officer Steve Lewis, who recommended the plans for approval, said there was an “exceptional case” for losing the listed buildings and English Heritage supported this belief.
He said: “The site constraints have made it difficult to find acceptable uses for the site and there have been numerous failed applications over the years.
“The current proposals would retain the most significant parts of the historic building.”
Committee member Cllr Jill Houlbrook backed the plans and said the city centre needed more apartments.
She said: “We have to move along and we have to develop things that are of our time.
“We have to be brave and say we have to do something with this site. It can’t be left in the condition it is now.”
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See full story in the Chester Leader