A planning inspector has once again ridden roughshod over community opposition by allowing student accommodation in a Chester neighbourhood where hundreds of student beds have already been created.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the 150-bed scheme at Oakbase House next to the fire station in Newtown opposite a retirement village.
But developers Primus Alliance Chester, who recently opened their 121-bed Northgate Point scheme across the road, won on appeal with no public hearing.
Planning inspector Paul Singleton didn’t even get the name of the community correct by constantly referring to the area throughout his report as ‘ Newton ’ instead of ‘Newtown’.
Residents will now be concerned a unanimously rejected eight-storey 376-bed complex on the site of the railway station car park next to Hoole bridge will succeed if appealed.
And Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service has plans to sell off surplus land to the rear of the St Anne Street fire station for student accommodation and operate from a smaller station at the front of the site.
The 400-bed Tramways complex by Chester Railway Station is already up and running as are smaller student schemes in nearby Victoria Road, George Street, Delamere Street and Upper Northgate Street.
If all the plans go-ahead then more than 1,000 student beds will have been delivered in Newtown in a few short years. Residents fear ‘noise, mess, impact on sleep and studentification’ plus exacerbated parking problems.
Reg Barritt, general secretary of Chester Community Voice UK, said: “CCV UK had no doubt that the Oakbase House application would be passed on appeal. It is our view that the decision is based, as with all the others that have gone before, more on the direction of unwritten Government policy than on sound planning grounds.
“It shows no respect for what the National Planning Policy Framework and our Local Plan sets out to achieve in terms of required delivery of mixed residential housing and commercial development in the city along with required sustainable protection of the character and distinctiveness and well being of our urban communities. Clearly Newtown is set to become Chester’s second student ghetto.”
He added: ”I’m sure the people who live in Newtown will be offended by the inspector who has shown a complete lack of respect by not even accurately recording the name of the area he was dealing with.”
Giving permission, planning inspector Paul Singleton wrote in his report: “Newton (sic) is substantially enclosed by the railway and ring road and there is very limited potential for student accommodation located outside of these boundaries to affect the balance of the community within the area.
“The total of 271 student bedrooms is a not a significant number given the overall number of dwellings in the high density terraced housing, residential towers and other accommodation in the area.”
A Planning Inspectorate spokesman said in response to concerns: “We are sorry for the misspelling of Newtown in the appeal decision letter.”
“In making a decision, inspectors can only consider the evidence submitted at the time of the appeal, taking account of current legislation, planning policies and guidance."
Other student complexes allowed on appeal against the decision of the council include the Tower Wharf 350-bed scheme by Telford’s Warehouse, a 77-bed managed complex on Hunter Street car park in the city centre and a 121-bed scheme close to Fountains Roundabout later reduced to 117 beds.