A DECISION on controversial plans for up to 142 homes on sports fields was deferred.
The outline application, submitted by Bark Street Investments, was due to be considered by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee at a HQ meeting last month.
The outline plans, put forward on the playing fields off Clifton Drive, Chester were recommended for refusal as the development would occupy open space and it had not been shown this was surplus to requirements.
Planning officers accepted there would be ‘significant benefits’ from a boost to the supply of housing but did not believe the permanent loss of the open space had been justified.
They also agreed with Welsh Water that the new homes would place ‘unacceptable pressure’ on the Chester waste water treatment works.
Objections were also raised by Sport England, the Chester and District Football League and by 92 residents who put forward wide-ranging fears and raised a petition.
An adjoining landowner raised concerns about flood risk and there were also objections from Blacon ward councillors Carolyn Graham, Reggie Jones and Marie Nelson (Lab).
Cllr Graham argued four previous applications on the site had either been refused or withdrawn and three appeals had been dismissed.
In a late report, councillors were told the developers had put forward measures to deal with the issues raised by Welsh Water.
Although they did not accept compensation should be paid for the loss of two sports pitches, they offered a contribution of £165,000 together with a community use agreement for the use of the University of Chester’s sports facilities on the Parkgate Road and Kingsway campuses.
The use of a playing pitch in Blacon leased by the university from the borough council was also included.
The Clifton Drive pitches would be maintained and available for community use until the financial contribution had been made and there was agreement for the use of the university facilities, it was confirmed.
The developers described their offer as ‘generous’ and argued it would provide ‘a genuine increase in the provision and spread of sports facilities available for the local clubs in the greater Chester area’.
Planning officers pointed out that Welsh Water had not had the opportunity to comment on the additional information but felt it was possible the objection could be withdrawn.
Overall they believed there was the potential that the recommendation for refusal could be altered.
Councillors agreed a decision should be deferred after principal planning officer Paul Friston had said that in the short term there would be no loss of pitches.