PROPOSALS for a controversial £100m student village on Chester’s outskirts have been rejected by councillors.
The 2,300-bed complex and Steve Redgrave sports institute was proposed by Chester-based Bell Developments on green belt land between Blacon and Mollington.
The decision - by five votes to four - came this afternoon after the borough’s strategic planning committee visited the land, between Parkgate Road and Shelley Road and considered a 110 page report by area planning manager Mark Lynch.
Councillors also had a further 26 pages of additional information, including comments from agents for Bell Developments and The Redgrave Institute in response to Mr Lynch’s report.
Recommending refusal, Mr Lynch concluded the developers had failed to prove ‘very special circumstances’ needed to justify what is classed as ‘inappropriate development’ according to green belt policies.
He found the ‘speculative’ scheme did not have the explicit support of the University of Chester and future growth in university numbers was ‘insufficient’ to support a 2,300-bed scheme.
Other urban locations for student accommodation were in the pipeline and promises the student village would alleviate ‘studentification’ in the Garden Quarter were unsubstantiated.
Views of the historic city skyline would be harmed and no specific need had been identified for the Redgrave health and fitness centre.
The developers believe the project would lead to economic benefits to the community of £270m.
They argue it would create more than 800 jobs in the five year build programme, 220 full time jobs and around 120 apprenticeships, designed for local people.
“Most importantly of course, it will provide outstanding accommodation and facilities in a purpose built, safe, secure and easily commutable student village and protect communities of Chester from the ‘studentification’ that has happened in the Garden Lane area,” the firm suggested.
Councillors agreed the development would be harmful to the purposes for including land in the green belt.
They accepted that due to its size and prominent location alongside a main road into the city, important views of historic buildings on the city’s skyline would be affected.
They also believed that what was said to be ‘a major incursion into the open countryside’ beyond the city’s built up area would affect the rural character of that part of the borough’s landscape and the amenities of residents in Blacon.
Objectors ranged from Mollington and Saughall and Shotwick Park parish councils, the CPRE, Chester Civic Trust and conservation advisers to
city MP Stephen Mosley and residents who put in more than 500 individual objections and a petition with almost 2,700 names.
There were also 53 letters in support together with 284 letters collected by the developers individually signed by Blacon residents.