People living in a city centre conservation area are worried a possible student scheme within a former Victorian church could change the character of their neighbourhood.
Blueoak Estates/Pentith Ltd has applied to convert the Welsh Congregational Chapel in Albion Street into a house of multiple occupation with options left open as to whether it could be five luxury apartments or pods for a maximum of 20 young professionals or students or a hostel for about 50 people.
The scheme has caused uproar in the small urban community made up of Victorian terraced homes with strong comments from residents and Mike Mercer, landlord of The Albion Inn for the last 42 years.
Company director Steve Roberts told The Chronicle he understands the ambiguity over the number and nature of end users had caused concern.
“They have a point saying they want certainty,” said Mr Roberts, but argued maintaining ‘flexible’ plans was necessary to ensure the scheme was ultimately viable. “It’s getting the design right and getting the end user right.”
Looking at the building, he added: “Something has got to be done, it’s slowly deteriorating.”
He recognises the limited number of parking spaces is an issue, especially if the building is sold as luxury apartments and negotiations are on-going over the possibility of leasing spaces from Marc Collins who is developing 11 apartments within the former snooker hall/Laser Quest building in Volunteer Street and owns a car park at the rear of The Albion pub.
Mr Roberts was recently involved, through another company, in delivering a luxury student accommodation scheme in the former homeless hostel in Roodee House in Grosvenor Street which is now available.
Albion landlord Mike Mercer wrote in objection: “The notice posted is ambiguous to say the least in that it implies that the development will be '5 bedroom and 4 bedroom apartments' but the design has purposely been left open for the developers to convert to one person “pods” if that is the better (and more profitable ) option.
“The number of units being proposed and the subsequent impact on the residential environs of this development is far too great.”
Mr Mercer, who would prefer retirement flats or family housing, added: “Given that the proposed development is more than likely for students, it would seem inappropriate to consider that the present surroundings would be conducive to either the newcomers or the present residents.”
John Bottomley, of Steele Street, Chester, wrote: “I oppose the proposal on several grounds, mainly concerning noise, potential anti-social behaviour, lack of parking provision and the likely detrimental effects on what is a designated conservation area.”