A government decision to refuse a 142-homes scheme in the Chester flood plain has been overturned by the High Court sparking fears among campaigners .
Friends of North Chester Greenbelt warns the ruling could ultimately give the green light to more building in the River Dee flood zone.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, must now re-examine his predecessor Greg Clark’s decision to reject Bark Street Investments’ housing plans at Clifton Drive playing fields off Sealand Road.
And the Friends group hopes Mr Javid will once again the reject the plan.
The Bark Street legal challenge was based on a change in circumstances referenced in a council officer report on a similar but unrelated 130-homes scheme targeting flood plain on the other side of Clifton Drive.
Legal advice in that case indicated alternative nearby sites, less prone to flooding, were no longer available to applicants Bloor Homes and Sealand Commercial Properties although the scheme still failed the ‘exceptions test’ because on balance the project would cause more harm than good.
The High Court ruled this fresh information should have been taken into account by the Secretary of State in the Bark Street application.
Friends of North Chester Greenbelt spokesman Andy Scargill said: “We would hope that in re-determining his decision on the application, which is the court order, the Secretary of State would again refuse them permission. Should Sajid Javid’s office choose otherwise then it is our belief that this will give the green light for building all along the floodplain of the River Dee in the Sealand basin.
“In the light of the many flooding disasters we witnessed in the North West of England last winter we believe this would be absolute madness. The fact remains that the land in question is Category 3 floodplain and should only be built on as a last resort.
“Cheshire West and Chester has an approved Local Plan which contains sufficient housing sites for the next 25 years and in the Chester area it is land by Wrexham Road which has been identified for this. Furthermore, more houses are currently being built in the borough per year than in the Local Plan so there is absolutely no need to build in the Sealand basin.’
Meanwhile, an appeal has been lodged by Bloor Homes and Sealand Commercial Properties against CWaC’s decision to reject their 130-dwelling scheme in Clifton Drive. And Sealand Commercial Properties, in partnership with developers Astu, are targeting the same land with a larger 280-homes scheme, called Ogilvie Park, but also improved flood protection and a proposed public park, offering two chances to succeed.
Mr Scargill commented: “This sorry state of affairs once again shows how inadequate our current planning laws are and really calls into question the whole concept of localism which was supposed to drive development. The fact remains that aggressive, speculative and greedy developers with enough money can ride roughshod over what has democratically been decided is best for local communities.”