Long-suffering resident Peter Clark, who lives near the university campus in Granville Road, made the recording in his backyard at 11.30pm after asking his student neighbours to keep the noise down.
Both Mr Clark and Prof Wheeler, who sat next to each other, were both attending a panel of Cheshire West and Chester Council councillors who agreed to explore the possibility of extending current planning controls on houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in the Garden Quarter right across the city.
Mr Clark explained: “What actually happens is you approach people and say ‘Can you keep the noise down?’. He then played the recording to the meeting from his phone which sounded like a group of males chanting loudly and aggressively.
“I can understand people have to make a living with these HMOs. There’s too many. In Cheyney Road it’s 100% more or less,” added Mr Clark, who said after one of the “many” disturbances he found his car locks super glued along with that of a neighbour and their visitors. “Once you get a block of them, you’re not fighting one, you’re fighting them all.”
Resident Chas Warwood challenged the university’s economic contribution. He said: “At night on Saturday I understand there is absolute chaos with students and in fact I talked to one of the NHS people who were dealing with the problems on the streets, the paramedics, and apparently it costs £500 to take a student away and get them treated in hospital at accident and emergency and sometimes they’ve got tents up with paramedics outside dealing with that - that’s the cost to the community.”
“There is real anger here. You try and push it away. I have to say the Professor does the same.”
The 35-strong audience heard relationships had broken down to such an extent that community groups were no longer accepting money from the university and The Chronicle understands an offer of financial help towards this year’s Garden Quarter’s Christmas lights was rejected.
Professor Wheeler, who accepted the university had “grown significantly” over the past two decades, refuted the claim the university was uninterested in engaging with the community.
He highlighted the institution’s £300m per year contribution to the local economy and predicted “modest growth” in student numbers over the next few years. He put the case for providing purpose-built managed accommodation which he hoped would help rebalance the local housing market.
Prof Wheeler added: “If we see, as I hope we will, some of the developments like Linenhall with just over 500 bedrooms, come into student occupation, the university envisages a significant proportion of houses that it has going back into private sales and the rental market.”
Turning to student behaviour, Prof Wheeler said Chester students carried out about 29,000 hours of voluntary activity every year.
He told the meeting: “It’s what the overwhelming majority of students do. They are committed to the city. They are committed to doing good things. I’d love to say it was 100%, it isn’t.
“We have a small minority of students who we disapprove of, who cause issues for their neighbours and that’s not something we condone or tolerate. And where we are notified we take very robust action against students who bring the university into disrepute.”