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Decision over Chester watersports hub next week

Replacement boathouse plan has generated comments in favour and against

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

A £2.5m Chester community watersports hub looks likely to be approved when it goes before councillors next week.

Cheshire West and Chester Council lodged the planning application with itself 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.

Case officer Connor Perrott is recommending councillors at Tuesday’s (April 4) planning committee back the project which has been ‘called-in’ by local ward members because of the scale and nature of the development at a key riverside location.

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.

Youngsters from the Chester Canoe Club practising on the Dee

Mr Perrott’s report reveals council leader Samantha Dixon is supporting the project which has led to representations both in favour and against.

Issues have been raised around the large scale of the development, the traffic that would be generated, the possibility of noise and disruption from the social area and the loss of ‘rare semi-improved wet meadow land’.

Concerns were highlighted around the design, especially given the sensitive location within a conservation area by the river, both by the council’s own conservation officer and its Design Review Panel.

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

Among the expressions of support are comments the facility would place Chester alongside Oxford when it comes to water sports facilities, that it would encourage healthier lifestyles and offer a valuable learning experience to young people.

Supporting the project, planning officer Mr Perrott concluded the use of the site as a boathouse was ‘long-established’.

“The proposed building will significantly improve the appearance of the site and provide for much needed improved rowing facilities,” he wrote.

The existing Queen's Park High School Boathouse on the River Dee (Image: Alasdair McNee)

“Whilst the facility would operate later into the evening, on the basis that it would be open to members of occupying clubs only, it is considered that no adverse amenity impacts would result. It is recommended that a condition limiting use of the facility to members of occupying clubs only be included on any permission issued.”

He accepted there would be a total net loss of 60 square metres of grassland but mitigation measures meant ‘the development would also not impact upon the ecological value of the site and immediate surrounds”.

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