RESIDENTS groups and the Chester Civic Trust are urging council chiefs to reject ‘shameless’ plans for racegoers and workers to move into luxury student flats.

Developer Watkin Jones got permission to build 77 student flats on the corner of Hunter Street and St Martins Way at appeal in 2016, after Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) had originally rejected the scheme.

The firm – which is also building 323 student apartments at the former bus depot in Liverpool Road – has since asked CWaC if racegoers and ‘key workers’ can move into the development too.

But the move has sparked fierce opposition – and in an objection sent to CWaC, Chester Civic Trust described it as a ‘shameless admission of development failure’ by Watkin Jones.

It said: “The Civic Trust argued as early as 2012 that the unplanned provision of purpose-built student accommodation in Chester by speculative developers bore little relationship to the likely demand created by higher education institutions in the city.

“This proposal seeks to rescue development failure at the expense of good planning principles and local environmental quality.

“The application must be refused and the applicant encouraged to either offer the building at rents attractive to its intended student clientele or transfer it to a body that will do so.”

The developer’s list of ‘key workers’ includes staff in the NHS, police, fire and rescue service, education, local government, public transport, prison and probation service, Ministry of Defence, Government departments, postal service, charities and retail.

CWaC has received 11 objections to the proposal so far – including letters from the King Street Area, Bridgegate East and the 1761 Building residents’ associations.

Key issues for neighbours include the development’s lack of parking provision – with no spaces set to be provided – as well as possible noise from racegoers.

Mike Hogg, chairman of the Bridgegate East residents’ association, added: “When Watkin Jones and its agents made the original planning application, they argued repeatedly that such accommodation was required to meet the housing needs of a growing Chester student population.

“The fact that Watkin Jones is now seeking to vary the permitted use of this building would seem to indicate either that they were wrong and the sector is indeed over-supplied – or they were right, but that rents are being charged or proposed that students cannot afford.”

In a letter sent to CWaC when the planning application was submitted, Terri-Anne Cross, planner at Watkin Jones, insisted that the scheme ‘can proceed through to approval’.

She said: “It was recognised by [CWaC planning officer Steven] Holmes that a large amount of student accommodation has recently been, and is continuing to be, delivered in the city and that the changes sought by this application will ensure that any voids are minimised.

“It was also recognised that keyworkers seek competitively priced, modern and high-quality rental accommodation close to the facilities that they require – and that the subject site offered these.

“With regards to the principle of those attending Chester Races occupying the development, it was stated that local planning policy relating to tourist accommodation in Chester was supportive and positive and that the subject site is located within a highly accessible location for Chester Racecourse.”

Ms Cross added that the development would not need to provide parking for workers due to its central location and because the residents would be ‘typically young adults’ that ‘do not have the luxury of owning a car’.

  • To view the plans, search for ‘18/04949/S73’ on CWaC’s planning website.