Residents fear the retail aspect of a plan by Eaton Estate could rip the heart out of Handbridge.
The Grosvenor Estate-owned company wants to convert No2 Overleigh Road which was previously occupied by a private day nursery but has been empty since 2014.
A pre-planning application consultation was held in June where proposals were unveiled to convert the building into retail space plus a semi-detached house and six apartments with off street parking.
Residents and businesses worry the retail aspect could undermine shops in the traditional centre of the village as well as creating problems relating to increased traffic, road safety, parking and noise.
A 750-name petition had been collected calling for a residential only alternative.
Roger Haigh, who lives in Overleigh Road, said: “The proposed store would require daily deliveries with lorries parking on Overleigh Road outside the building, creating added congestion and air pollution on a road used throughout the day by mothers and young children and school children.
“We have a delightful selection of small retailers in Handbridge village. Many of them would suffer and I fear the proposal would eventually result in shop closures and the demise of our village heart.”
Stephen Vaughan, owner of the Handbridge Services garage, admits he has a vested interest but fears the development would have a detrimental impact on the ‘heart and hub of Handbridge shopping’.
He wrote: “Surely making all of this project into a completely residential operation would be both advantageous to the community and fair to the residents and businesses.”
Graham Gordon, treasurer of Handbridge Community Association , said: “Our concern is they want to develop that side of it into 2,500 sq ft retail. It’s going to impact on the businesses down there even if it was something like a Coop or a Tesco, they’re going to have an on-site bakery and they’re going to have all sorts of things which are going to impact.
"They say they’ve put some parking round the back but nobody is going to use that. Deliveries are going to be all out the front, of which there are many. ”
He said retail use at that location would be detrimental to the conservation area.
Chester MP Chris Matheson, who is backing the campaigners, commented: “There’s a great tradition of local independent traders around here who would undoubtedly be damaged by a retail development of this size. I’m a big fan of Edge’s, a very successful butchers, I don’t want these shops to be damaged.
"I’m certainly not opposed to this building being done up for residential properties but I just worry existing businesses, who contribute so much to what the community of Handbridge is all about, might be damaged.”
A spokesperson for the Eaton Estate said: “It is our intention to restore and regenerate the site, which was most recently Overleigh Private Day Nursery and that has been empty since 2014, by retaining its attractive façade and sensitively changing the remainder of the existing building to create a semi-detached house, six apartments all with private car parking as well as retail space with off-street parking.
“As a long term landowner and investor in Handbridge, we intend to protect and improve its character as well as make a lasting positive contribution to the economic and social life of the community. We believe that this proposal will provide much needed accommodation in Chester as well as an additional amenity complementing the existing independent shops in the village.
“If planning consent is granted, we will begin to look at potential proprietors for the commercial space and would only look to work with operators who share our values and who would maintain the high standards we expect.
“We chose to host a public information evening at the property on 1 June to share the plans for the site with the community at the earliest opportunity and before a planning application was submitted and we were delighted that more than 100 people attended the event.”