A 323-bed student housing scheme is backed for approval when the application goes before the council planning committee next week.
Liverpool Road Chester Limited, a subsidiary of Watkin Jones, is behind the project which would be built on the current Stagecoach depot site in Liverpool Road, Chester .
And the bus company has lodged a parallel planning application for a replacement depot on part of Chester FC’s car park, in Sovereign Way, with a decision awaited.
Ward member Richard Beacham asked for the contentious student housing component to be decided by Tuesday’s planning committee (November 7) because he fears the design is not of high quality, it’s too big and the height will alter views from surrounding properties. He believes it would ‘fail to preserve or enhance the Liverpool Road Conservation Area’.
While his view chimes with the community, planning officer Lyndsay Shinner is recommending approval based on the national planning guidance of ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.
She feels that ‘overall the benefits outweigh the limited harm identified’ citing a policy commitment to support purpose-built managed accommodation as opposed to more houses in multiple occupancy which are associated with anti-social problems and an imbalance in communities.
Among the 28 objections is a growing view that student accommodation levels have reached saturation point and there is ‘already too much’. There are fears about the impact regarding on street parking, increased studentification due to community imbalance, poor design, loss of council tax revenue because students are exempt and the ruin of the conservation area.
Chester Civic Trust feels the proposal represents ‘overdevelopment’ with ‘excessive height, oppressive massing and a scale inappropriate to the character of the surrounding area’. However, the University of Law, which is relocating from Christleton into the city centre, welcomes more managed student accommodation.
A report from the developer supporting the plan states: “The proposal presented in this document is for a development on the site which is currently used by the Stagecoach depot and which bridges Liverpool Road and Victoria Road to the north of Chester city centre.
“The Watkin Jones Group propose to redevelop the site for purpose-built student accommodation in the form of both studio and cluster spaces (circa 322 units) including associated facilities such as reception area, common room, cycle store, refuse store and plant room.
“We envision a new high quality development with improved public realm. The scheme has been developed through several pre-app meetings, a design review panel presentation and a public consultation, all of which have informed the submitted design.”