Chester heritage watchdog brands student scheme 'brutal and ugly'

Developers argue design will help transform 'negative urban space into an area of high quality'
An artist's impression of what the proposed 80-bed student block would look like off Hunter Street

A heritage watchdog has branded an 80-bed student housing scheme as an ‘oversized, brutal and ugly insertion’ into the city centre.

Chester Civic Trust asks the planning authority to reject Watkin Jones and Liberty Properties’ scheme to provide a managed accommodation block on the site of what is currently a temporary car park off Hunter Street behind King Street.

Watkin Jones and Liberty Properties have plans to build an 80-bed student complex on land currently being used as a car park off Hunter Street

Its fears follow concerns from King Street Area Residents' Association who argue the scheme will 'inflict more student accommodation on a residential conservation area'.

Developers say the design has been developed in conjunction with Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning, conservation and design team, who ‘welcomed additional height’ in the seven-storey tower on the frontage.

The applicants, under the name of Hunter Street Chester Ltd, say the tower is ‘to celebrate the Hunter Street/ St Martin’s Way corner’.

An aerial view of the site for the proposed 80-bed student accommodation off Hunter Street, Chester

But the Civic Trust, who argue the tower is actually eight storeys high, said in a statement: “Chester Civic Trust have objected to the proposed development of student accommodation at Hunter Street and St Martin’s Way as it will contribute to creating a new city ‘wall’ of tall buildings that are gradually obscuring the older city core and spoiling its nationally important historic character.

“They are very concerned that if approved this eight-storey building will set a most unfortunate precedent.”

The statement continued: “A good example is the precedent set by the ex-Travelodge Hotel (now student accommodation) at Fountain’s roundabout. This gave rise to the out-of-scale Delamere Street health centre and apartments. The Crowne Plaza hotel and its equally out of scale proposed replacement is now having the same effect on St Martin's Way.”

The NHS Fountains building in Delamere Street(Image: Jo Henwood)

The Civic Trust says this ‘important gateway site’ requires a high quality design that matches the site’s importance and respects the design and scale of surrounding buildings.

“From the city walls and also from further away, the development will change the skyline of Chester potentially obscuring the Town Hall particularly when viewed from the west. It will potentially obscure views looking south to the Welsh hills from the new theatre and from the new Cathedral at Height attraction.”

“The Civic Trust believe that the proposed building would be an oversized brutal and ugly insertion into the city centre, the sort of large scale, bland architecture which has recently been removed from the very same area to the undoubted benefit of the city and the city centre conservation area.”

A design and access statement, accompanying the planning application, says CWaC planners accepted the final design, arguing the proposals are fully compliant with the Chester & District Local Plan.

It concludes: “The design solution is an enhancement to the existing form and will help to transform a negative urban space into an area of high quality incorporating excellent public realm design features.”

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