A DECISION on residential development in a Chester hamlet has been put on hold to allow the question of affordable housing to be probed.
The situation has arisen at the vacant Oak Room pub, originally a Victorian hotel and adjoining commercial and industrial land on Tattenhall Road, Newton by Tattenhall where Blackham Developments Ltd have put forward revised plans for 27 new houses.
A previous scheme for 39 new properties, with an additional four flats being created from two apartments in the pub, was refused by Chester city councillors against the advice of their officials on a 12-1 vote with one abstention.
The company appealed but the rejection of the application was upheld by a planning inspector.
Councillors heard the scheme would more than double the number of homes in the locality.
The developers have now applied for the smaller number of new, two storey houses and to build a three storey block with two live/work units.
The pub would be refurbished and extended as a pub/restaurant with a small convenience store and a new two storey building would create an eight bedroom B&B.
Industrial buildings at the rear of the pub would be demolished, according to a detailed 19 page report.
Planning officers have had six letters, four of which support the development together with a 36 signature petition, also in support.
Objectors argue the development would not be in a sustainable location and the site is not well served by means of transport other than private cars.
They believe it would be contrary to policies seeking to restrain housing development in the open countryside and would be detrimental to the character of the area.
Concerns were also raised about increased traffic.
Cheshire West and Chester Council's affordable housing officer has objected on the grounds that no affordable housing is proposed in the development.
The land can be lawfully used for a variety of business purposes, including storage and distribution, borough planners point out.
It has previously been used for the storage of haulage vehicles, as a motor repair garage, a reclamation yard and a coal yard.
In 1992, consent was granted for the storage of up to 1,500 tonnes of any hazardous substance.
The developers have previously said they would dispose of the land for commercial purposes if housing development does not succeed, the report states.
Planning officers accept that its use for business purposes does not conform to the character of the area and has the potential to harm the visual amenity of the open countryside and the amenities of nearby properties.
There is an infrequent bus service.
They argue, however, that Chester is expected to provide for 7,500 new homes by 2021, 80% of which should be on previously used land.
The developers had provided financial information, they said, which they felt showed it was not possible to include affordable housing in the development without affecting the viability of the scheme.
Planners believe the concerns raised by the appeal inspector have been met and recommended approval subject to 24 conditions and a legal agreement.
Broxton ward councillor Mike Jones (Con) asked for the application to be considered by a Cheshire West and Chester planning board due to the concerns raised over the previous plans and the failure of the new application to deal with these.
Chairman Cllr Ralph Oultram (Con, Weaver) told the board the application was “complex” and pointed out the previous scheme had been rejected partly on the grounds of inadequate affordable housing.
He believed a decision should be deferred to enable the council to seek independent advice on the developer's financial assessment and this was agreed.