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Chester Liberal Democrats speak out against the development of the George Street School

The development of the George Street School is back on as they have taken it to appeal. I understand that there were only three objections to the most recent planning application but it was still refused.

The proposed scheme intends to build a large block on the side and turn it into student accommodation. Many people are not in favour of putting student accommodation all over the city and some do not want it on their doorstep.

Mark A Williams, Local Liberal Democrat campaigner says, “I do not want the George Street School buildings ruined by this development. It’s a beautiful, unique and prominent historic building that should have been looked after by the Tory run council, but it hasn’t because I understand that it was sold off by the Tory run County Council before the merger into Cheshire West and Chester Council. It conveniently has no heritage or protection orders on it so it can be developed and altered.”

The George Street School House was the original municipal school for the city and that is valuable history. Whilst I agree that it should be renovated and utilised I do not agree with this scheme that would ruin it. It should be protected as part of our city’s great heritage.

If you feel strongly about this development and have not submitted an objection yet, you can do now, but it must be by the 14th June.

The Planning reference is 11/02718/FUL and the Planning Appeals Officer is Ms Ann Smethurst who can be contacted on 01606 288914 or email planning.appeals@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

BUT as the appeal is with the Planning Inspectorate any written submission must be submitted to; The Planning Inspectorate, 3/06a Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, BRISTOL, BS1 6PN quoting the reference APP/AO665/A/217475/NWF

We can but hope that they will see sense and not overturn the planning decision to refuse this development of a historic Chester building.

GEORGE

6 Comments on “Chester Liberal Democrats speak out against the development of the George Street School

  • Nic Siddle
    June 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    The building, whilst not listed, is a fine example of Edwardian architecture and I agree with Mark that is a scandal that it was sold off cheaply by the old County Council and that it has been allowed to lie empty and be vandalised for over 12 years. However, whilst Mark may not want it ‘ruined by this development’ he doesn’t put forward any realisable alternative, given that the property is now in private hands.

    Whilst the planning application under appeal may not be entirely sympathetic, it is likely to be the best on offer (although I have submitted a suggestion that the straw coloured brick detailing should be carried through to the new blocks and that more effort should be made to match the window styles with those of the old school).

    These plans are as sympathetic an attempt as is possible to restore the building to some of its previous glory. If the Secretary of State were to uphold the appeal (likely, I would have thought, given the Planning Committee’s incoherence in formulating their reasons for refusal – see the webcast), then what will happen? – another delay, further vandalism and an almost inevitable eventual demolition of the building, followed by another ugly concrete block of ‘affordable’ housing like the one already on the same site?

    It is inevitably true that ‘Many people … do not want it on their doorstep’. But the Nevin Leather Associates report into student accommodation, commissioned by the Council, does recommend an incremental supply of units such as this near the City centre (as opposed to a Student Village on Greenbelt land) and this is a relatively low impact location. There have been few (no?) issues with the slightly larger student unit on the site of the old Abbeygate School and there should be no more here as long as a proper management structure is in place.

    I suggest that anyone thinking of objecting to this scheme should think about what we might end up with instead. Much better to write a conditional letter of support, but outlining any suggestions for improvement to the scheme which may yet be incorporated into it.

    Nic Siddle

    Reply
    • mark a williams
      June 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks for your comments Nic.

      Reply
  • mark a williams
    June 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I have had this reply below from the Council Heritage office with regard to these questions.

    With regard to the above premises can you please confirm the following;
    1) Does the council still own it?
    2) Why has it not got heritage status?
    3) Why does it not have a protection order on it?

    Thank you for your query regarding the above site. My understanding is that the former Cheshire County Council sold the site some while ago, and that since that time it has passed from through the hands of various property developers.
    During the 1990s review of the Chester City list English Heritage considered the eligibility of this building for listing, but ultimately decided that it failed to meet the criteria for inclusion on the statutory national list. Although not benefitting from the protection afforded to a listed building it does lie within the City conservation area and is identified in the Chester Characterisation Study as a building of Townscape Value, and is therefore protected by way of local policies, which seek to maintain the character and appearance of the conservation area.

    It is unfortunate that the approved scheme for the site has not been implemented, however the Council is not in a position to compel anyone to commence a scheme for which they have permission. You may be aware that a recent scheme for conversion to student housing, including an extension was refused planning permission principally because of the use, number of units and the lack of parking provision.
    Please be assured that the Conservation and Design Team will continue to supported appropriate schemes that will secure the long term future of this locally important historic building byl providing a sustainable long term use for the building, which respects its historic and architectural interest and the character and appearance of the conservation area generally

    Reply
  • martin
    December 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I have loved this building for years and it must be saved at all costs, sometimes you have to put up with ugly extensions etc just to get the building used and in the future when a more reasonable person buys it the ugly extension can be demolished, this should be converted to apartments, its a great building, I hope its saved, and well done to Cheshire council for trying

    Reply
  • Nic Siddle
    December 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Ref Martin’s comments above. There is a rumour (not confirmed)that the developers are possibly trying to on-sell the George St site. Even if not true,like all other potential developments for Student Accommodation, nothing is likely to happen until a final decision is taken on the Bell Developments’ 2300 bed ‘Student Village’ plan at Mollington (due to go before Strategic Planning Committee on 24 Jan 2013. That is unlikely to be definitive as it will almost certainly be subject to appeal if they lose or Judicial review if they win.
    The reasons for not allowing the development of the Student Village are many and substantial (from loss of Greenbelt land to poor location, lack of University support and totally over-sized) but there are powerful people with vested interests pushing for its approval. The University has calculated the maximum bed ‘shortfall’ to be 500. It is already building 196 rooms itself on campus. This George St development would add another 85. There is permission for 21 at Alton Lodge on Hoole Road. The Travel Lodge at the Fountains Roundabout is up for grabs and could accommodate another 160 (tho’ I understand that there are 2 or 3 bidders for this building – some of whom may wish to retain it as a hotel). The Race Course Company is applying for permission for a 500 student bed unit on the Linen Hall car park. So there is absolutely NO need for the Student Village proposal (we believe that the ultimate aim is to get permission for housing on this land).
    For more detailed reasoning and source documentation ref the Student Village, visit http://www.northchestergreenbelt.com. You will also be able to see there details on other areas of Greenbelt around Chester that are under threat. Much of the land is in the ownership of, or under the option control of, a very small group of developers/speculators.
    The problems all arise from the failure to repeal the outdated RSS housing targets in a timely fashion. There is still an in-built policy assumption that the shortage of homes is due to the lack of land and building rather than the lack of available finance and financial certainty.
    There is still time to lodge an objection to the Student Village plan (Ref. No: 12/03447/OUT) at http://pa.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/online-applications/

    Nic Siddle

    Reply
    • Martin
      December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Hi they have the building for sale for over 1 million on one of the estate agent sites, and it includes the student accommodation in the plan, so clearly they are selling it on, I wonder how much they originaly paid ? So the planning application may well have just been to make a quick profit and sell on, Its sad,

      Reply
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