REVISED plans for student accommodation close to Chester University had approval.
The application was made at 62 Liverpool Road in Chester by Chester Lettings. Previous plans were rejected by the city council in July, leading to an appeal.
The city's planning board was told Chester Lettings had made alterations to deal with the reasons for refusal.
The large, detached residential property, reached from a narrow driveway off Liverpool Road, is vacant.
It is nearby to a three-storey property used as university student accommodation and two bungalows, according to a report.
The previous application was rejected as councillors believed it would be detrimental to residential amenity and there was insufficient parking.
Chester Lettings has now increased the number parking spaces from six to nine and has included double glazing throughout the property which will have a two storey extension at the rear following the demolition of an outbuilding, councillors heard.
Acoustic fencing is proposed around the accommodation and planning officers have been told that mature trees and hedging will be retained and there will also be additional planting.
An external staircase at the rear has been removed.
The development will create a total of 19 bedrooms for student use only.
No objections were raised by highways or environmental health officers while the council's housing officials said there was a lack of appropriate student accommodation in the area.
This is disputed by Grange Road occupier Dewi Bermingham who believes there is sufficient accommodation to meet the demand for student housing and suggests that with demographic trends, Chester will soon have an oversupply.
He also claims the existing university-owned student accommodation adjacent to the property causes “much distress to residents through noise and antisocial behaviour”.
Also objecting to the application, Moss Bank occupier Emma Stringfellow commented: “The council should reflect on the down at heel and unkempt nature of the Garden Lane area and consider if they really want this to happen to Liverpool Road and Abbots Grove.”
Former owner and occupier of the property, Mr P R Clarke, now living in Christleton told the city council, however: “We can say that apart from very occasional displays of over-exuberance, limited to the beginning and end of terms, which were immediately dealt with by the college staff, we have had no cause to complain to the college.”
He added: “Generally the students were a credit to the college.”
Chester Civic Trust told the city council it was concerned about the amount of parking and believed there was a need for a policy for student parking in the area.
Due to the expansion of the university, there is clearly a need for additional student accommodation in the district, according to principal planning officer Liz Stone.
She does not believe the change will detract from the amenities of that part of Liverpool Road but suggested that Chester Lettings had not shown there was an overriding need for the accommodation or that the property was no longer suitable for family use.
She felt, however, there is a need to provide a mix of student accommodation and pointed out there have recently been a number of successful appeals.
Recommending the application should be approved, Ms Stone said the change of use would not be out of keeping with the character of the locality or detrimental to the amenities of neighbouring properties or highway safety.
Upton Grange city councillor Jill Houlbrook (Con) accepted Chester Lettings had made changes to the application but said concerns remained.
“I do feel the developer has listened to the comments made in July which is refreshing but I am unhappy we are having student accommodation,” she said.
Moving planning permission, Cllr Paul Cheetham (Lib Dem, Vicars Cross) said he had been “very much against” the previous application.
“I have been vocal in objecting to the over studentification which has now been taken up by the minister for housing,” commented Cllr Jim Latham (Lib Dem, Boughton Heath).
Seconding approval, he argued the conversion of large properties “must be done properly”.
Arguing that student numbers in Chester are down, Cllr Teri Gray (Con, Newton Brook) said: “They will continue to drop because the cost of living here is too expensive.
“They are leaving university with a £25,000 debt.”
She feared the property could become empty in the future.
Describing the property as “a lovely house”, Cllr Sandra Rudd (Lab, College) suggested: “It could be a lovely family home. It would be a real shame for it to be converted.”
Cllr Janet Black (Lab, College) said she had "grave concerns" about giving planning permission for another house of multiple occupation.
"I am not convinced they have demonstrated there is a need,'' she said.
She was concerned that empty properties would blight the area.
Cllr Hilarie McNae (Con, Upton Grange) was assured by development control manager Fiona Edwards that if the property could not be let to students, the application would go back to the planning board.
Cllr Rudd suggested it would be premature to reach a decision before the outcome of the planning appeal was known and argued there were grounds for refusal.
The board agreed on an 8-3 vote with two abstentions that the conversion should have planning permission.