A COMMERCIAL and industrial site close to a Cheshire village conservation area could be redeveloped for housing.

The application has been approved for Meadow Vale Foods at its premises on Wrexham Road in Malpas.

The frozen food production and distribution company has its main offices and depot on the site, Chester's planning board heard.

A building fronting Wrexham Road is used as offices with cold storage at the rear and there is a two storey office building in the centre of the site.

It is close to neighbouring residential properties with Malpas and District Sports Club behind and adjoins the Malpas Conservation Area.

The company, which is to relocate due to further expansion, says it is proposing to demolish the office and cold store building and erect four new houses.

The remaining office building would also be converted to residential.

Two of the homes would have five bedrooms, two would have four bedrooms and the conversion would create a five bedroom property.

All would be open market.

Malpas Parish Council does not object but questions if an alternative employment use has been explored.

Councillors say they are concerned about highway access and increased traffic on Wrexham Road.

They also feel a broader selection of properties would be more in keeping with the village and consistent with local need.

Conservation officers feel the design and layout is “well considered” but have reservations about the estate type layout which is proposed.

The company argues business use of the site is not environmentally acceptable and points out that heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) visit throughout the day adding to traffic problems in the village.

Highway officers say they would prefer the site to be developed for residential purposes.

Although guidelines suggest that affordable homes should be provided on a “one to one” basis, planning officers believe the site represents “a unique case” as the inappropriate use would be removed from the residential area.

Given the small size of the development, they suggested a financial payment of £50,000 should be secured through a legal agreement in place of any affordable housing being provided.

Recommending the application should be approved, they argued the reduction in the number of HGVs would provide environmental benefits.

The development will not have an adverse effect on the adjoining conservation area or on the amenities of neighbours, they believe.

“It will remove a business use from the residential area and reduce the number HGVs travelling through Malpas,” planning officer Rob Charnley told the board.

“I don't have any problems with this application,” commented Malpas City Cllr Ann Wright (Con).

She said there should be consultations with the nearby sports club about how a financial contribution by the firm towards the provision of public open space facilities should be spent.

“I am concerned we do not appear to be getting the level of affordable housing we should be getting,” suggested Labour planning spokesperson Cllr Sandra Rudd (College).

She argued there was a shortage of affordable housing in the Malpas area “and it is ridiculous that when we get the opportunity to have a couple of affordable homes, it is denied”.

Development control manager Miss Fiona Edwards said the City Council should consider what was economically viable and suggested: “You have to be realistic.”

She believed the proposed contribution of £50,000 was acceptable.

Pointing out the site is on “a very fast, very narrow road, a mile from shops in Malpas”, planning deputy chairman Cllr Barbara Roberts (Con, Tarvin) described the location as “totally the wrong place” for affordable homes.

She said consideration should also be given to the cost of decontaminating the site.

“The benefit to Malpas is that they are not going to have the HGVs going through the village,” she suggested.

The board agreed on a 13-0 vote that the redevelopment should have permission.