Fury over plans to build 140 homes on playing fields


Jim Green

DEVELOPERS want to build more than 140 homes on playing fields near Blacon, sparking fury among residents and the sporting community.

Bark Street Investments has lodged plans for the large housing scheme on Clifton Drive, off Sealand Road, meaning four football pitches and one rugby pitch could be lost.

Devastated residents are pleading with planning chiefs to reject the proposals and some sports clubs are now facing an uncertain future.

There are fears the development would cause traffic chaos and serious floods with the Environment Agency confirming the playing fields are in a flood zone.

Sealand Road resident Peter Collin believes that Clifton Drive’s junction with Sealand Road is an “accident waiting to happen”.

He said: “To erect 142 homes on a site that could be in serious danger of flooding is incomprehensible.

“If this field is concreted over and covered with asphalt, where does the rain water go?

“I am seriously worried if this development goes ahead we will not get house insurance for flooding.”

Currently leased to the University of Chester, the playing fields are used by students and clubs including Waggon and Horses FC, Greyhound FC and Chester Gladiators RLFC.

Chester FC trained on the pitches during pre-season and they have also been used for matches involving the club’s youth teams.

The Appleton Group has carried out a playing fields assessment on behalf of the developers and claims the pitches are used solely by the university.

But Chester and District Football League secretary Paul Graham described those claims as “rubbish”.

He said: “The league is devastated this application has come in and we feel for our clubs who are going to lose these historic pitches.

“They are the best pitches in Chester without a shadow of a doubt and we have used them for cup semi-finals in the past.

“The council is not investing in pitches and we are finding the private providers are hiking up prices and now we have another two clubs who are going to be made homeless.”

Mr Graham believes Chester already has insufficient football facilities and said he was extremely concerned about losing yet more pitches.

He said: “We have met with CWaC (Cheshire West and Chester Council) and Cheshire Football Association about the lack of pitches in Chester but we are not getting anywhere.

“The league has recently taken over the running of the changing rooms at Hoole Park because otherwise we would have lost them.

“We also feel for the people living on Sealand Road. They are going to be completely surrounded by development.”

Chester FC community football officer Mark Howell also opposes the scheme.

He said: “It is very difficult to source quality pitches in Chester and we had originally hoped to have three of our sides playing at Clifton Drive this year.

“Fortunately as a club we have been able to relocate our teams, albeit with great difficulty.

“It seems a great shame that at a time when we should be encouraging children and adults to take part in more sport and outdoor activities  we are losing such great facilities as this.”

If the plans are approved, 142 family homes would be built on the playing fields with the university relocating some of the pitches to its Kingsway campus.

But Cllr Reggie Jones, who represents Blacon, believes this is misleading as the Kingsway pitches already exist and no replacement pitches are planned.

He said: “We would be losing the facilities at a time when pitches are more in demand than ever.

“Residents have fears about this development, not least the loss of the leisure amenities and the fact the infrastructure in the area is poor.”

Cllr Jones has called on Cheshire West and Chester Council to develop a proper development brief for the Sealand Road area.

He said: “There are issues around flooding, traffic and the capacity of the existing waste treatment plants.

“These extra homes would create more problems on Sealand Road, which is already a bottleneck, and plans for a new supermarket would further exacerbate things.

“It will be a nightmare for residents. By allowing piecemeal development the council is changing the whole nature of the area and that is wrong.”

A University of Chester spokesman said: “Improving and enhancing the student experience is at the heart of the university’s mission and ensuring that first class, modern sporting and recreational facilities are readily accessible to students is therefore significant in its business objectives.

“Satnam is the promoter of the proposed development of the Sealand Road site, and has responsibility for preparing and submitting the planning application and its negotiation through Cheshire West and Chester Council. The university’s occupancy of the Clifton Road site would terminate to permit the development.

“The Clifton Drive scheme involves provision solely of family housing and the agreed relocation of the existing sports facilities to a more appropriate university site, which has been under discussion between Satnam and the university for some time and forms part of the university’s overall sports and recreation strategy.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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