CAMPAIGNERS opposed to plans for a huge student village insist the scheme is still not needed despite University of Chester’s planned expansion.
Planning chiefs rejected the controversial 2,300-bed scheme, which included a state-of-the-art sports institute backed by Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave.
But developers Bell Developments vowed to fight on and now claim the university’s new technology campus in Thornton will lead to extra demand for student beds.
Last week the university announced it was taking over the 66-acre Shell UK research and development base, creating a new campus for 500 students.
But the Friends of North Chester Greenbelt campaign group has pointed out that university vice-chancellor professor Tim Wheeler said he expected most of the new students would live at home.
In a statement, the group said: “No doubt the supporters of the failed student village scheme will jump on the fact that this faculty will ultimately create 500 more student places. What they continue to miss is the fact that the student accommodation argument is about those people who need to live away from home.
“The fact is that a higher than usual number of Chester students do not require accommodation and this is more than likely going to be the case here.
“In other words, nothing has changed; there is still no justification for a 2,300-bed student accommodation development on Chester’s precious green belt. Properly planned, incremental development of managed student halls, integrated into the life of our city, is the way forward.”
Hundreds of campaigners for and against the scheme packed into Chester West and Chester HQ in January to see the plans narrowly rejected by the planning committee. Opponents said the student village was not needed, would threaten the character of Chester and destroy the green belt.
But the refusal to grant permission for the scheme did not deter Bell Developments, who say they are confident of reversing the decision on appeal.
University leaders hope the expansion, which includes a new science park, will ultimately create up to 2,000 jobs.
Shell UK confirmed last year the research base would close in 2014 with about 500 jobs being relocated to Germany, Manchester and London.
Prof Wheeler said the university would move onto the site – which includes laboratories, workshops, offices, sports facilities and a restaurant – in phases over the next 18 months.