THERE are fears that plans to build more than 400 student flats in Chester will cause further problems.
Edinburgh-based Miller Developments want to build three canalside student accommodation blocks near Telford’s Warehouse.
But residents in the Garden Quarter are worried their ‘vibrant community’ could be tipped over the edge.
There have been long-standing problems in the area with rowdy late night behaviour, rubbish and parking although action has been taken to address these issues over recent years.
Former Chester MP Christine Russell, who lives nearby, said: “We are not anti-student at all but there is a huge wish to bring some balance back into the community.
“We want to see what little development opportunity there is in this area to be used for family housing.
“We need family homes to help rebalance the community and we need a proper parking scheme for the residents.”
Miller Developments and architects Young and Gault held a public consultation on the Tower Wharf scheme at Garden Lane Church on Thursday.
The development would provide 409 student rooms spread over two six-storey blocks and one four-storey block but includes only 50 parking spaces.
Mrs Russell said the car parking was “totally inadequate” and she also has doubts over the scale and sustainability of the development.
“The blocks are way too high,” she said.
“I am also concerned these rooms are not sustainable. If they are not used for student accommodation then what else could they be used for? “They are like little cells and that’s probably the only alternative use – a prison or something.”
Cllr Bob Rudd, who represents the Garden Quarter, attended the public consultation and said many residents had voiced concerns about the scheme.
He said: “I don’t particularly like the scheme that was on display because of the size, the lack of car parking and the materials used don’t inspire me.
“There must be somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 students in the area and that is an imbalance in the community without any shadow of a doubt.
“I am certainly not anti-student but I don’t particularly want another 400 or so because that would take us up to almost 3,000.”
Cllr Rudd said if the scheme was to go ahead he would want it to be properly managed and to see some existing student houses turned back into family homes.
“I am not against managed accommodation for students because we have had enough problems with houses in multiple occupation (HMO),” he said.
“Putting those HMOs back into use for family housing would really go some way to restoring some balance to the community.”
Numerous student accommodation schemes are currently proposed including the controversial 2,300-bed student village scheme from Bell Developments.
The University of Chester – which has no involvement with the Tower Wharf scheme – is building 196 flats on the Parkgate Road campus and wants to convert the 160-bed Travelodge in Delamere Street into student rooms.
Plans for 85 student flats in George Street have been approved; Watkins Jones wants to build 394 student rooms on the former bus depot site in Crewe Street and Chester Race Company has plans for 500 rooms on the Linenhall car park.
Some people fear such development leads to ‘pepper potting’ but others say the city centre is the best place for students to live.
Mrs Russell said: “In 99.9 per cent of cases students are well behaved young people and they help keep the local shops going.
“The university have been good and if students are rowdy then they will go and sort them out.
“We just want to restore the balance in our community. It is a vibrant community but we want and need to attract more young families.”
Garden Quarter resident Avril Coady said she would fight any planning application.
“I feel this area has been totally decimated by an over subscription of students,” she said.
“It does impact on community life and I would not support any development on the site that was solely for students. I feel if student developments are built across the city then the city will become a dormitory for the university.
“I would like to see homes for professionals and families to help reconstitute the community feel in the area.”