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Chester floodplain housing scheme unanimously rejected

Developers seeking to build 280 homes and public park are sent packing

The rejected Ogilvie Park scheme, looking west from Clifton Drive.

Councillors unanimously rejected a large housing scheme targeting the Chester floodplain.

Ospitium 4 wanted to build 140 terraced houses and 140 apartments for rent on farmland off Clifton Drive, near Blacon, together with a new public park, children’s nursery, estate manager’s office and flood defence measures.

There were also plans for geothermal heating, bicycle and car parking, a footbridge, new accesses created by demolishing four houses fronting Sealand Road plus junction improvements.

But members at Cheshire West and Chester Council's planning committee followed the planning officer’s recommendation in refusing the scheme, known as Ogilvie Park, due to constraints including flood risk and loss of green space.

Andy Scargill, chairman of the Friends of North Chester Greenbelt

Andy Scargill, chairman of Friends of North Chester Greenbelt, addressed the meeting on the question of flooding.

He said: “The applicants want to build their houses on top of huge concrete tubes to allow the water to flow up and down when such a catastrophe occurs. The Environment Agency said this wouldn’t protect gardens, estate roads and cars so they would recommend that people in the houses, should they be built, drive their vehicles to the top of the Blacon escarpment to avoid the flood waters.

“This is a nonsense, you couldn’t make it up.

“If it was the case that there was insufficient land within the Chester area to provide for new homes then there may be an argument for building on unsuitable land. Your Local Plan clearly identifies category 1 land by Wrexham Road which is more than adequate for Chester’s future needs, currently an application has been lodged to build 1,400 houses.”

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

Patrick Davies, for the applicant, said: “Ogilvie Park provides much needed housing within a managed private-public park , 280 apartments and houses – 80% private rental sector and 20% affordable private rental sector.”

He said the project was in line with current thinking about the need to combat the UK housing crisis.

Mr Davies added: “Ogilvie Park provides flood defences to protect 1,200 existing properties, up to 2,000 new homes and circa 50,000 square metres of potential commercial floor space which could be located on CWaC-owned land and other landowners.”

He claimed the scheme was wholeheartedly backed by the Environment Agency.

The land off Clifton Drive targeted by a housing developer.

Mr Davies said the ecological information provided by the council was based on a 1993 UK-wide report compiled by flying over the area with no samples of flora taken. He added: “The proposal will create what the survey thought it had detected, planted grassland and enlarged hedgerow habitat to create opportunities for the existing water voles and encourage wider bio-diversity.”

Blacon ward councillor Carol Gahan was concerned at building on ‘high risk’ floodplain leaving new residents with an insurance and personal risk. The site had been ruled as unsuitable when the council drew up its Local Plan. She claimed the flood defences relied on a manually operated system which she felt was ‘reckless’.

There would be a loss of green space and wildlife in an area identified as deprived. And Cllr Gahan said Clifton Drive would be turned into a major thoroughfare even though it was just a country lane. Residents on Sealand Road would be ‘overpowered’ by the housing at the rear with increased traffic at the front. She feared the impact on health and community services of another 1,000 residents.

Cllr Eleanor Johnson (Con, Gowy)

Moving refusal, Cllr Eleanor Johnson said: “We are told that this application is ambitious but I say I find the design to be utilitarian. I was going to say Eastern bloc but I was told I couldn’t say that! It reminds me more of something like you see on television built around Chernobyl and I think we have moved forward from that. We want something people want to live in.”

To her, building on the floodplain was ‘unthinkable’ and she could not go against any of the seven reasons offered by the planning officer as reasons for refusal.

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