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Chester's £2.5m water sports vision lodged with council

New hub aims to promote increased community participation in water sports like rowing and canoeing

Computer-generated image of the proposed Chester Community Watersports Hub by The Meadows.

The blueprint for a £2.5m Chester Community Watersports Hub has been lodged with the planning authority.

Site owners Cheshire West and Chester Council have lodged the planning application with themselves to demolish the existing Queen’s Park High School boathouse in Lower Park Road, Queen’s Park, then erect the watersports hub and 46-vehicle car park in its place.

Facilities would include boat stores, fitness suite, changing rooms, social area, office and kitchen.

The idea is to bring together existing users – Queen’s Park High, Chester Deva Canoe Club, Scouts’ Canoe Club and Chester Riverside Canoe Club – with Royal Chester Rowing Club who have outgrown their facility on the opposite bank of the River Dee.

Chester public to have their say over watersports centre

Computer generated image of the proposed Chester Community Watersports Hub showing the proposed view from Lower Park Road/Elizabeth Crescent junction to the Meadows access.

An accompanying document states: “The aim of the new community watersports hub is to promote increased community participation in water sports. This will be by means of a targeted business and participation plan supported by Active Cheshire, Sport England, British Rowing and British Canoeing, all of whom have been active participants in the development of the project and are fully supportive of its aims. The building will be a new community asset owned by CWaC.”

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However, the plan has proved controversial.

Friends of Chester Meadows, which involves local people in managing the important area of nature conservation and recreation, has raised concerns the building will encroach on to part of the Meadows.

The existing Queen's Park High School boathouse that would be demolished

Issues have also been raised around the large scale of the development compared with the existing footprint, the traffic that would be generated and the possibility of noise and disruption from the social area.

But documents submitted with the application argue the site is sustainable and accessible by public transport. And the social area won’t be a commercial operation, won’t include a bar or be open to the public.

Opening times of the centre would be between 6am and 10pm, with a balcony not to be used after 9pm.

Solar panels will reduce its carbon footprint by helping to heat the premises and hot water.

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Rowers on the River Dee

One of the major partners in the project is Royal Chester Rowing Club, whose existing premises are ‘seriously overcrowded’. The club had been working on plans relocate to a £1.3m community water sports centre up-river but this proposal is now on hold

Objector Max Gooch, of Edgar Cottages, Handbridge, a former fishery officer for the Environment Agency, said the accompanying biodiversity report ‘missed several important issues’ and he is worried about the impact on the environment of more river traffic at this point.

He explained: “This proposal, if given the green light, would allow the rowing club to move across the river and its site to be taken over by the King’s School which would therefore lead to more boats with no speed control.” Mr Gooch also fears the project will ‘exacerbate’ vehicular traffic in a residential area.

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