The enforcement notice was issued after CWaC’s planning committee rejected the university’s retrospective plan to allow six buildings at the science park, near Elton , to continue to be used for teaching.
However, the university is appealing both the planning committee decision and the enforcement notice which had a compliance date of September 30.
And the university understands everything is on hold pending the outcome of the appeals.
A university spokeswoman said: “Students continue to be allowed on site to undertake research – and until the outcome of the appeal, they are also permitted on site for undergraduate teaching purposes.”
The letter of enforcement, addressed to Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler , states that six buildings used for educational purposes represent unauthorised development at the site where technology companies can continue unaffected.
This followed the committee decision which was based on guidance from the Health and Safety Executive who fear an unacceptable risk to students due to the proximity of Stanlow oil refinery.
Interestingly, the University of Chester blames the council for the situation it now finds itself in with Professor Wheeler threatening to identify individual council staff involved ‘at some point’.
A statement on its website, headed ‘Thornton Science Park - The Facts’, addresses the question: ‘How did this situation arise?’
It states: “When the university acquired Thornton Science Park, it received professional advice from Cheshire West and Chester’s planning officers that it would not require planning permission for change of use. This was because the previous owners, Shell, had been granted a special kind of planning permission which recognised the unique, or ‘sui generis’, nature of the site, catering for research and development alongside industry.
“This situation has arisen as result of the university and Cheshire West and Chester Council, at the suggestion of the council, working together to put in place a Local Development Order (LDO) at Thornton. An LDO would permit specified types of development at the Thornton site without separate applications for planning consent being needed.
“As Thornton is within the inner zone of a site (Stanlow Oil Refinery), regulated by COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) legislation, in cases of planning consent, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a statutory consultee and must therefore be asked to comment.
“During this process the HSE raised questions of the existing planning consents and the university decided to apply to change the designated use of the buildings occupied by the Faculty of Science and Engineering to D1 to answer those questions.
“The university’s proposal relates to six of the 60 buildings on site, including the library, laboratories, lecture theatres and workshops.”
The statement adds: “Thornton Science Park is too important for the university, the wider region and national commercial interests to accept the council’s decision without challenging it. The university is disappointed with the council’s decision but recognises that the planning application is just the beginning of the process and the university is appealing to the Secretary of State to overturn Cheshire West and Chester Council’s decision.”