STUDENT VILLAGE FOR UP TO 2500 STUDENTS: PARKGATE ROAD, MOLLINGTON
CHESTER CIVIC TRUST OBJECTION
Chester Civic Trust objects to this proposal in the strongest possible terms. It represents an unwarrantable intrusion into the Green Belt. No credible case has been made for it on the grounds of exceptional circumstances. It is merely a speculative but unjustified commercial proposal seeking to breech the well-established and popular Green Belt policy.
Our objection has four elements:-
Firstly, there is no need for the proposed student accommodation. Last year Cheshire West and Chester council commissioned Nevin Leather Associates to carry out a study of student housing in Chester. The consultants reported to CWAC in January 2012. Their report concludes that:-
No major increase in the number of full-time students at Chester University is likely. Numbers are expected to remain static or subject to either a small decrease or a small increase.
The vast majority of full-time students want accommodation in adjacent areas within one mile of the University.
The current provision of accommodation by the University and by the private sector caters for the need. Indeed, current supply may even be overtaking demand. There is no shortage of student accommodation in Chester for existing or likely future demands.
With no major increase in student numbers, any development of a large-scale greenfield student campus would have a major negative impact on the housing market in the Garden Quarter area.
The Nevin Associates report is a strategic review of student housing. Its arguments refute any case for exceptional circumstances applying to the current application.
Secondly, the University of Chester does not support the scheme. The developers have not built a partnership with the University, despite the latter’s centrality to the scheme’s success. The University is on record as saying they “have absolutely no position on Bell Developments’ proposals for a ‘student village”. The University forecasts no significant increase in its full-time student numbers. It has deferred the development of its own ‘student village’ with only 1000 study bedrooms because “demand currently and for the foreseeable future would not justify such a scheme, particularly given the uncertainty over whether higher tuition fees will result in more students living at home.” (University of Chester media release, 1st February 2012).
Thirdly, the Garden Quarter Residents’ Association does not support the scheme. The growth of student accommodation in the Garden Quarter has clearly had impacts on the area, but a major speculative development in the Green Belt may have adverse effects on the Garden Quarter, not least because students forced to commute from an inconveniently located out-of-town campus would worsen parking problems in the area.
Finally, the proposal conflicts with fundamental national and local policies for the Green Belt. It would be inappropriate development within the terms of PPG2, paras 3.1 and 3.2, “very special circumstances” not having been demonstrated by the applicants (PPG2, 3.2). The scheme would be contrary to the reasons for including land in the Green Belt (PPG2 para 1.5). Similarly, the proposal would conflict with Policies ENV63, ENV65 and ENV67 of the Chester District Plan of 2006, together with the policy context described in para. 3.251. The development would be a major intrusion into – indeed, would destroy – a visually important green setting for the city of Chester and its skyline as it is viewed from the Parkgate Road entry to the city. It also makes no attempt to integrate visually or functionally with the adjacent residential area of Blacon. It would merge the distinct settlements of Blacon and Mollington and contribute massively to the problem of urban sprawl in the critical zone north of Chester.
Chester Civic Trusts therefore believes there are no exceptional circumstances to justify the proposed student village breeching the Green Belt policy.
We call on the LPA to reject the application.
Chester Civic Trust welcomes the opinions of others but no comments by the General Public posted on this website should be read as being endorsed by, or supported by, the Chester Civic Trust unless specifically stated.