Redesigned Chester Racecourse returns to committee
After the £100m masterplan for the racecourse was refused against officer recommendation in March, the redesigned proposals are set to go back before Cheshire West & Chester Council later this week.
The council’s planning committee were expected to wave through the proposals earlier this year, but permission was scuppered by a vocal group of objectors, including Chester’s Civic Trust and former leader of the council Cllr Sam Dixon, who argued the new proposed grandstand at the racecourse was “too tall and far too frilly”.
The application was ultimately rejected with claims the development would be “overly dominant and incongruous” while there wold also be “an unacceptable impact on important views and [Chester’s] historic skyline”.
Following the initial refusal, the racecourse reworked its designs with architect McGuirkWatson to significantly change the original application.
Instead of two buildings – a separate conference centre and grandstand – the racecourse is proposing a single six-storey building including both grandstand and conference space. The conference space will be housed in a linked three-storey elevation, with space for up to 1,000 guests.
The six-storey grandstand will also feature a rooftop restaurant, and is predominately clad with red brick and timber.
Plans for a multi-storey car park have been shelved, along with plans to use Saddlery Way to access the Roodee course on racedays. Instead, it is proposed that cars will use nearby Kitchen Street and an existing route through the railway arches.
A large public lawn has been introduced in place of the Leverhulme Stand, which will be demolished; this lawn will extend from the County Stand to the new development and is intended as the focus for the revised scheme, opening up views of the racecourse from Watergate and the City Walls.
The revised proposals have been welcomed by Cheshire West & Chester planning officers, who have again recommended the scheme for approval ahead of committee.
In a report to go before Thursday’s committee, planning officers said the development would “undoubtedly alter the appearance” of Chester but added : “Chester is internationally renowned as an historic city with unique heritage assets, with the racecourse being one of many tourist attractions to benefit the city.
“it is considered that the development by virtue of its design, scale, and layout, along with the use of high-quality material and high-quality hard and soft landscaping would enhance the appearance of one of the principal gateways and route ways into Chester.”
Representations of support for the scheme ahead of committee have come from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which argued “the importance [of the scheme] as an addition to Chester rand the wider Cheshire and Warrington economy cannot be underestimated”. Support for the proposals has also come from Marketing Cheshire and the Chester Growth Partnership.
Some objections to the scheme remain, however, with reservations around the buildings’ height and the traffic impact on nearby residents.
Cheshire West & Chester’s planning committee will decide on the proposals on Thursday 15 August.