Nature lovers have started a petition to ‘save the Meadows’ after concerns about plans to redevelop a boathouse on part of what is known as Chester’s ‘green lung’.
Plans totalling £2.5m are being worked up to redevelop Queen’s Park High School’s boathouse in partnership with Royal Chester Rowing Club, British Rowing, British Canoeing, Active Cheshire, Sport England and Cheshire West and Chester Council.
But Friends of Chester Meadows, which involves local people in managing the important area of nature conservation and recreation, is concerned the new development will encroach on to part of the Meadows known as Barn Field.
Friends chairwoman Rachel Cross, from Handbridge, said: “A joint group of Queen’s Park residents and Friends of the Meadows have prepared a leaflet outlining what we understand to be planned by this council-led project.”
She said the leaflet listed a number of concerns, including proposals ‘to encroach upon the Meadows with a possible car park!’.
The Friends support the improvement of the existing boathouse for the good of the school and community but fear the current scheme, involving a private rowing club, will ‘become a much larger and more commercially focused centre’.
They claim a public meeting held in February was told ‘there were no specific details available’. However, they have now understand the plans involve a two storey building with twice the footprint of the existing single storey school boathouse.
Concerns about noise and disruption
The Friends say there has also been reference to the provision of a bar and social function room with concerns about noise and disruption.
Supporters argue the scheme will deliver health and educational benefits for the community as well as helping to maximise the potential of the Dee as a key asset for the city.
The Friends of the Meadows’ online petition is available at: www.change.org/p/save-the-meadows.
A council spokesman said: “The Dee is one of the top rivers in the country for rowing with opportunities for other watersports and such a hub was included in the Chester Waterways Strategy.
“But there is still a lot of work to be done before this project reaches its design stage and we will keep local residents informed of the progress being made and consultation will continue to take place.
“Our stakeholder group has another meeting on May 14 and a further position statement will be released soon afterwards. As we have said right from the start the development –including car parking – could include land immediately next to the current boathouse but there are no plans to build on the main part of the Meadows.
“Some survey work has also been carried out on site at this stage to provide essential information about the site and this will inform the process as the project develops.”