DEVELOPERS behind the failed bid to build a huge student village on Chester’s green belt have vowed to fight on.
Planning chiefs threw out proposals from Bell Developments for a controversial £100 million scheme, which included a state-of-the-art sports institute, backed by Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave.
But the refusal to grant permission for the 2,300-bed village has not deterred the developers, who are confident of reversing the decision on appeal.
Hundreds of campaigners for and against the development packed into Chester West and Chester HQ on January 24, to see the proposals rejected by the narrowest of margins by the planning committee – five to four.
Student village spokesman for Bell Developments, Stephen Wundke, said: “The decision to refuse the planning application was disappointing but it certainly is not the end of the student village plans. It was an incredibly close call and we will be assessing all avenues available to us.
“We can’t appeal against the decision until the official council statement arrives, which will be here in the next few days, but we will be appealing.”
Bell Developments had been faced with opposition from campaigners who said that the student village was not needed, would threaten the character of Chester and destroy the green belt.
Mr Wundke revealed that the developers were now looking at three possible ways that the decision could be overturned, including referring it to the Secretary of State.
“The first option available to us is to essentially get a ‘free go’ at resubmitting the plans to the councils planning committee in the hope that we could change just one persons mind on the proposals.
“The second would see us send it to the Secretary of State for a hearing with one of their own planning officers. There is also the option of combining both of these options to challenge the decision.
“Should there be a reconsideration of the green belt review and the land no longer be in the green belt, then the situation would immediately change.
“This whole issue has been about the green belt and not about the student village itself. I think everyone realises that the village is needed but it is the issue of green belt that is holding it back and what has, ultimately, resulted in its refusal.”
Campaigners had fought a two-year battle against the proposed development, which was intended for green belt land between Saughall and Mollington, and had urged Bell Developments not to appeal and focus their attentions elsewhere.
Andy Scargill, spokesman for the Friends of North Chester Greenbelt, said: “We are naturally disappointed to hear the Bell Development will be appealing against the decision of the planning committee, but it was hardly unexpected.
“While the issue was largely to do with a green belt, and we appreciate that there is a need for extra student accommodation, it is nowhere near the scale of the development that was being proposed.
“The University of Chester agree that accommodation for about 500 is needed and we would argue that there is sufficient brown field site for that kind of development to go ahead.
“What Bell are doing could put off future developers who have exciting plans to transform brown field sites in the city, and push them elsewhere, which would be damaging to Chester.”