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Blacon community learns about flood plain housing plan

Project would also include flood protection, a public park, sports pitches and highway improvements

A developer was praised for talking to the public about its 280-homes plan in the Chester flood plain but greeted with scepticism over a package of community benefits.

Astu Group chairman Patrick Davies told the One Voice for Blacon forum about proposals to develop on farmland alongside Clifton Drive near Blacon.

A previous scheme for up to 130 homes on the same plot was refused permission partly because it lies in a flood zone.

And the site is opposite another proposed housing site for 142 homes on former playing fields refused by the Secretary of State who felt there were more suitable areas less prone to flood risk.

Developers behind Chester flood plain housing schemes won't go away

John Roberts, regional director at VINCI Construction UK Ltd and Patrick Davies, chairman of Astu Group, who both addressed the One Voice for Blacon forum about a 280-home scheme.

But Astu is willing to contribute to flood protection measures which it claims will lessen the chances of flooding so that it would not be subject to such stringent planning restrictions.

Mr Davies told those gathered: “It’s targeted housing in the three areas of greatest need in Chester: over 55s affordable housing; first time buyers and family houses for private rent.

“A new public park of five hectares (12.4 acre) – by the way Grosvenor Park’s about five hectares as well – including recreational facilities of relaxing and walking, together with permanent rugby union and football pitches for community use by booking with the estate manager.

“No charge will be made for the use of any part of the park. No public funding is sought for the public park for either its creation or maintenance. The park shall be maintained by full time employees of Astu."

The company chairman said his firm was happy to pay towards flood protection measures.

He explained: “Astu is leading all relevant landowners in the Sealand Basin to provide an Environment Agency and Welsh Water approved flood protection scheme. When implemented this will lift the entire area, more than a 1,000 residential properties and businesses in the Sealand Road basin area, out of flood zone 3 to flood zone 2.

“The underlying assumption of the new scheme is to double the capacity of the flood reserve over that which currently exists.”

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Mr Davies said the balance of funding to deal with problems of sewage capacity and surface water flooding in the Sealand Road basin was being funded by Welsh Water and would also cure the ‘Sealand Stink’.

Retired teacher Andy Scargill, of Friends of North Chester Greenbelt, said the current housing supply meant a scheme in the flood plain was unnecessary and he challenged claims about the proposed mitigation measures.

“I can’t believe you can change category 3 flood plain into category 2,” he said, to which Mr Davies responded: ‘Watch this space!’.

Resident Tony Carter, of Blacon Point Road, who praised the presentation, commented: “I got the feeling I was listening to a fairy Godmother. I know the idea is to get planning permission on the flood plain but I don’t see how you are going to make a lot of money. Are you a philanthropist?”

The One Voice for Blacon forum held at The Parade.

Mr Davies said the company was a multi-family office not answerable to the Stock Exchange with lower margins expected compared with volume house builders. “Slow and steady income suits us,” he replied.

Resident Rosemary Burns said: “The plans look great – that’s if they’re passed – my concern is the traffic on Sealand Road is an absolute nightmare now, so you’re going to cause havoc.”

Mr Davies is unconcerned because of planned improvements to traffic light phasing and junctions at Sealand Road-Sovereign Way and Sealand Road-Clifton Drive. He pointed out the traffic generated by the housing would pass through outside busy times for the Greyhound Retail Park.

Chester MP writes to David Cameron over city flooding fears

Blacon Cllr Reggie Jones, who chaired the meeting, complimented the developers for talking to the community, but told The Chronicle he would be calling-in the plans for a committee decision.

He said: “I have concerns for a number of reasons around the flood plain, highways, street lighting and around the intensity of the development and not forgetting the loss of open space.”

Chester Labour MP Chris Matheson campaigned against building on the flood plain when seeking election.

He said: “The fact is this is flood plain. It was the wrong place to build 18 months ago and it’s still the wrong place to build now.”

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