Full council to vote on student halls plan

The second planning decision over Bell Developments' controversial student village in Chester will be made at a full meeting of all councillors of Cheshire West & Chester Council rather than by planning committee members only.

At a special meeting of the council last week, members voted narrowly in favour of changing the authority's constitution to allow all 75 members to consider the application as a planning committee.

Members also agreed to a suggestion from Blacon member, Cllr Carolyn Graham that required the special meeting of the council to be held in the city rather than the council chamber in Winsford.

The proposal for the student village of up to 2,300 beds between Blacon and Mollington on the outskirts of Chester was refused planning permission in January, mainly due to its situation in the green belt.

The developer, represented by planning consultancy Spawforths in Leeds, claimed the arguments which led the council to turn down the original application were based on inaccurate information, as planning officers did not properly explain the full benefits of the scheme.

The plans were resubmitted without amendment.

The council is likely to hold the vote in the Town Hall assembly rooms with video facilities to overflow accommodation in the former magistrates' court.

The authority must also ensure that all members of the council receive inductions training with regard to responsibilities involved in making decisions on planning issues.

Steve Robinson, chief executive of the council, said: "The meeting will be held as soon as it is logistically possible, taking into account the issues of suitable location and councillor training.
"The application is to be considered at Strategic Planning Committee on 19 September, but members will now decide whether they wish to make a recommendation to full council or defer a decision to that meeting."

The council meeting which voted to change the constitution by 32 votes to 30 was called by councillors Gareth Anderson, Brian Crowe, Myles Hogg, Neil Sullivan and Bob Thompson.

The scheme was designed by AEW Architects in Manchester.

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So basically the planning committee in good faith turned this down initially on the advice of the Council’s own planning officers, the leader is desperate for the scheme to go ahead and so moves the whole goalposts and takes it to the full Council to make the numbers stack up. Democracy in action!

By John Brown

Do the University actually want or need this accommodation?

By John Smith

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