IT took just half an hour for members of the council’s planning committee to unanimously approve plans for a new £2.6m neonatal unit at Chester’s hospital this afternoon.

The decision came after a nervous two months for health chiefs following the shock rejection of the plan’s first incarnation in October.

That application was controversially thrown out after one resident of Bache Hall Estate, Annemarie Jones, said the new facility would block sunlight to her garden.

This, she said, would turn it into an “overshadowed, dank space” where she and her dogs “would not be able to enjoy the heat of the sun”.

Mrs Jones spoke again at today’s planning committee meeting, stressing the “catastrophic impact” the single-storey unit would have.

She also said UK planning guidelines indicated that the new unit should not come within 10.5 metres of the boundary of her property.

The Countess of Chester Hospital’s acting chief executive, Dr Susan Gilby, then made a passionate speech to the committee describing the plans as “essential”.

Although other sites were considered, she said the proposed location next to the existing maternity unit was the only workable option as sick babies needed to be moved between the two facilities as efficiently as possible.

“It could be fatal to transport a fragile baby outside,” Dr Gilby told committee members.

She said it was “right” that the neighbour had raised concerns and her team had amended the plans so there was now more room – 2.4m – between Mrs Jones’s garden and the new building.

A row of hornbeam trees and a fence would also be put in place to lessen the impact further.

“There will be no loss of privacy as users of the hospital cannot see into the neighbouring property,” Dr Gilby said. “The need for the unit outweighs the concerns, given these have been taken into consideration with the redesign.”

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning team had already agreed with this, saying the need for the unit represented the very special circumstances required under planning law to outweigh the “harm to residential amenities”.

With many expecting a protracted debate, the vote came surprisingly quickly with all eight members giving the application the green light.

After the meeting, jubilant mum Niamh Hocking, who organised a petition with 20,444 signatures backing the plans, said she was overcome with emotion.

“I feel so happy!” said Niamh, whose son Jasper was born 11 weeks premature at the Countess.

“It’s definitely the result that was needed. I’m just glad that everyone at the hospital can now carry on doing their jobs without having to worry about this.”

Leila Bibby, chair of the Babygrow Appeal Committee that raised a whopping £2.4m towards the new unit, added: “I’m absolutely delighted!”

And in a statement, Acting Chief Executive Susan Gilby said: “We are delighted that our revised plans have been approved by the elected members. This development, which has been funded through the hard work of our local community, will make a huge difference to the most sick, premature and vulnerable babies born in Chester.

“Thank you to everyone who supported our Countess Charity’s hugely successful Babygrow Appeal to make it happen. We remain mindful of our responsibilities to our neighbours and while the development gets under way we will continue to look at ways to limit disruption to those who live nearby.”

Mrs Jones, the objector, was unavailable for comment after the meeting.

Countess chiefs hope work can begin on the new unit as soon as possible in the New Year.