Councillors unanimously rejected a £21m luxury housing scheme saying the design was not good enough for its riverside setting.
Redrow Homes and site owners Lloyds Banking Group had sought approval at Tuesday's planning committee (February 4) for 33 dwellings at the former Western Command Army site in Queen’s Park, Chester.
But members took the lead from English Heritage and Chester Civic Trust who objected to revised plans showing the demolition of existing buildings and their replacement with 18 detached houses and 21 apartments.
Andrew Pannell from the trust told the meeting the proposals showed “unimaginative suburban villas found in countless schemes throughout the country”.
The scheme did not relate to existing houses or the river frontage and failed to preserve or enhance the conservation area. If approved, he argued the ‘mediocre’ scheme would set a precedent for all prestigious sites in Chester.
Ward Cllr Neil Sullivan said Redrow had declined a request to present its revised plans at a community forum in January.
He did not believe the three apartment blocks were in keeping with the conservation area and was “a poor offering for such a prominent site”. Cllr Sullivan regretted the plans showed a gated community.
Fellow ward Cllr Razia Daniels said in a statement that not a single day went by without negative comments about the former Travelodge building and the Salmon Leap flats.
Calling for the application to be deferred to allow a comprehensive consultation, she added that it was “too important to be rushed”.
City centre Cllr Samantha Dixon, who moved refusal, said: “I was hopeful I would see something really exciting but it's the exact opposite.”
Invoking the site's former military role, Cllr Keith Butcher said: “I'm sorry to see this site being treated like this. It survived the Luftwaffe. I can only hope it survives the planners.”
Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton, who seconded refusal, said the site had a significant influence on the character of the area in a city heavily dependent on visitors.
“The benefits are transient but the harm could endure for a very long time,” she commented.
Agent Justin Paul, on behalf of the applicants, said the revised plan reduced the scale and massing and “introduced views through the site” with a positive impact on the river frontage and nearby Victoria Crescent.
Two entrances and two vents linked to the Second World War bunker complex would be conserved with interpretation boards installed.
He argued the viability of the project was a concern for the developers given the community benefits and the constraints of the site but insisted the design quality had not suffered.
However, all members rejected the recommendation for approval advanced by their own planning officer.