A NEW restaurant and viewing terraces will allow Chester Racecourse to carry on competing with the likes of Ascot and Cheltenham, bosses say.

Plans for the new facilities were approved by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee yesterday (Tuesday, December 4).

The restaurant will be situated on the ‘horse walk’ between the parade ring and main course, allowing diners to “almost touch the horses and jockeys”.

Chester Race Company’s project manager, Chris Clayton, said: “In this location we can see the potential for a new facility the likes of which would be completely new to UK racing.

“A restaurant and private roof terrace where you can see the spectacle and almost touch the horses and jockeys as they move between the parade ring and the course.”

However, several councillors expressed concern that this proximity could cause additional stress to the horses.

Cllr Jill Houlbrook said: “They are highly-strung, highly sensitive animals at the best of times and I wouldn’t want to see them put under any further stress before they charge around the racecourse.”

The new plans – split over two separate applications – will also see the construction of a new roof terrace for owners and trainers to use on top of their pavilion.

Mr Clayton told committee members: “This application aims to give our owners and trainers some private outside space – something they don’t have at the moment.

“The pavilion terraces will be a huge hit in racing circles and will ensure our owners and trainers keep coming back to Chester for the best race day ever.”

But council leader Samantha Dixon, who also represents the city centre ward, said residents were worried about “increasing development creep” by the race company.

These applications are not part of the company’s £100m masterplan and some saw them as “piecemeal” applications that would amount to overdevelopment when added together.

Cllr Dixon also stressed that the Roodee site was owned by the council, on behalf of the people of Chester, and was only leased to the racecourse.

Yet other councillors pointed to the importance of the racecourse for Chester’s economy.

Cllr Tom Blackmore said: “I support this because it can only enhance Chester.”

Mr Clayton stressed that the plans would keep Chester “right up there with the likes of Ascot and Cheltenham”.

Referring to the restaurant and terrace plan, he added: “This proposal will bring something completely new to Chester Racecourse and we know the racegoers will love it.”

That application was approved by eight votes to three, while the owners’ pavilion terrace plan was backed by nine votes to two. Both will be subject to a final say by the council’s senior planning manager, Fiona Hore.