A unique community with a thriving spirit is in danger of ‘slowly drowning’ because of studentification, according to the Lord Mayor of Chester in giving evidence at a planning inquiry.
Cllr Bob Rudd (Lab, Garden Quarter) was speaking as ward member against an appeal by Miller Developments after its plan for three managed student blocks at Tower Wharf was rejected by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee.
Cllr Rudd, who fears the impact of another 350 students on the area surrounding the University of Chester, told the hearing in Chester’s Quaker Meeting House: “In my view the Garden Quarter is a unique area with a thriving community spirit which is in danger.
“The community is slowly drowning with the sheer number of students in one neighbourhood, whether in HMOs or in managed accommodation.
“There is a danger of driving out remaining residents who love living in the Garden Quarter community because it is a very special place and they feel it is being destroyed.
“The area frequently has large amounts of rubbish left out on the street days after the refuse collection day and in the rear gardens, attracting rats, recycling boxes are strewn around.
“There are problems with inconsiderate car parking where pedestrians have had to walk in the road, noise from student parties and when they are walking into the city and home again in the early hours. Some residents have already moved away and others are thinking about it and we do not want to lose this fantastic community.”
Inspector Roger Pritchard, who is presiding over the three-day hearing with a decision to be published later, said issues to consider were whether there would be an unacceptable loss of an employment site, as designated by the council, a failure to enhance a conservation area and unacceptable harm for current residents.
This week's inquiry is the continuation of a hearing that started last November that had to be adjourned after an administrative mix-up meant the on-site legal notice had not been posted in time.
Barrister Anthony Gill, for the developer, said the council had overestimated its need for employment land and there was a growing demand for good quality student accommodation.
In terms of impact on the conservation area, the design had been reworked in response to criticisms from English Heritage and the Canal and River Trust leading to their objections being withdrawn.
Addressing studentification concerns, Mr Gill said the purpose-built blocks would be subject to a Student Management Plan.
He said: “Specific issues are raised in terms of the negative symptoms of student housing including; parking conflicts, bins, noise, increased criminal targeting of the neighbourhood.”
“It is submitted that the appeal proposals will not lead to the harms feared by objectors and in fact have the potential to mitigate the harms to the Garden Quarter from current HMO housing.”
This week's hearing is being heard across two venues.