The Lord Mayor of Chester says many residents of Garden Quarter regard a decision to allow a 350-bed student accommodation scheme as sounding the death knell for the traditional community.
Cllr Bob Rudd recently opposed an appeal by Miller Developments after its plan for three managed student blocks at Tower Wharf was rejected by members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee.
This week inspector Roger Pritchard published his decision in favour of the development despite concerns from the community about yet more ‘studentification’ in adding 350 students to the existing 2,500-strong local student population.
Fears centre around anti-social behaviour including the build-up of rubbish, inconsiderate parking and noise from revellers, plus the undermining of a vibrant community with a strong arts scene including music venue Telford’s Warehouse which is next door to the application site.
Cllr Rudd (Lab, Garden Quarter), speaking as ward member, said: “There are people who are extremely upset over what is happening to their community. I am doing my best to placate them and keep spirits up but I can’t see a way forward at the moment.
“We are going to have live with the decision the planners have made, even if they live 200 miles away.”
CWaC’s strategic planning committee had rejected the plan for Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) but the inspector said there was ‘an almost inevitable’ development of a ‘student quarter’ close to the University of Chester’s main campus.
Cllr Rudd responded: “Localism doesn’t mean an awful lot and certainly doesn’t mean much to the people of Tower Wharf.”
Inspector Mr Pritchard said: “Whilst I appreciate the concerns of residents of the Garden Quarter, there seems to me to be a fundamental and perhaps irreconcilable conflict between the council’s firm wish to see the continuing expansion of the university, with all the benefits that will bring to the city, and the almost inevitable development of a ‘student quarter’, such as have existed in many other English cities for decades, close to the main campus.
“In a situation where I expect that there will be continuing growth in the University of Chester, even if not at the most optimistic rates forecast by the university itself, I cannot see any substantial lessening of the pressures on the Garden Quarter.
“In such circumstances, additional PBSA may well be the most suitable means to provide the additional accommodation that will be required in a manner that would mitigate against the possible harm that residents believe that expansion would bring.”