CHESHIRE West and Chester Council has given planning consent for 28 homes on a former school site it has agreed to sell to the applicant.

The planning committee unanimously approved Morris Homes’ plans at the old Ridings School in Saughall despite community opposition which includes campaigners keen to see the site converted into a community facility.

Resident Mike Heathcote, who addressed the committee, asked for a deferral following a recent arson attack on the school given there was an ongoing criminal investigation but this was dismissed.

He suggested the council planning officer’s report had been strengthened to indicate there were now ‘very special circumstances’ to justify the scheme even though it is categorised as ‘inappropriate development’ in the green belt.

He added: “This application is opposed by a great many residents of Saughall. Forty-three of them have registered a total of 69 letters of objection.”

Saughall parish councillor Andrew Storrar asked for an adjournment following an extraordinary meeting of the parish council last Friday because issues like drainage had not been properly addressed, but was confident the council’s eventual support could be secured.

Ward Cllr Brian Crowe, who called in the application for a decision by the committee, highlighted that smaller scale schemes had been rejected by the council because they did not maximise the capital receipt for the authority. He also raised concerns about surface water drainage and access issues.

Garry Goodwin of Morris Homes said the number of dwellings had been reduced and separation distances increased. A sum of £65,000 had been agreed towards local educational facilities. The scheme would provide much-needed family and affordable housing at a sustainable location.