A CRUNCH vote over whether a controversial student village scheme should go ahead looks likely to take place in Chester Town Hall.
Calls for the constitution of Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) to be changed so the full council could consider the application as a planning committee were narrowly passed on Thursday.
In a heated special meeting that council leader Mike Jones did not attend, 32 councillors backed the constitutional change with 30 against.
Five councillors, four Conservatives and a Liberal Democrat, tabled a motion calling for Bell Developments’ scheme to be determined by the full council rather than the strategic planning committee.
Another special council meeting will now be needed to decide whether the village and the Sir Steve Redgrave-backed sports institute project should be given planning permission.
Cllr Carolyn Graham, who represents Blacon, said the meeting should be held in Chester and not at the council chamber in Winsford.
Her fellow councillors backed her suggestion and CWaC confirmed the assembly room in Chester Town Hall could be used for the meeting, which is certain to attract huge interest.
Those councillors not currently involved in planning will have to undergo training inductions regarding planning law before the meeting can take place.
Council chief executive Steve Robinson: “The meeting will be held as soon as it is logistically possible, taking into account the issues of suitable location and councillor training.
“The application is to be considered at strategic planning committee on September 19 but members will now decide whether they wish to make a recommendation to full council or defer a decision to that meeting.”
Bell Developments want to build the 2,300-bed village and sports institute on greenbelt land between Blacon and Mollington.
Planning chiefs threw out the £100m scheme in January but brothers Mike and Dave Bell vowed to battle on and resubmitted the application in May.
However, the planning process has been overshadowed by the decision to remove Cllr Myles Hogg, who voted against the scheme, from his post as strategic planning committee chair and replace him with Cllr Howard Greenwood, who voted in favour.
Cllr Hogg, fellow Tory councillors Brian Crowe, Gareth Anderson and Neil Sullivan and Lib Dem councillor Bob Thompson requested the constitutional change.
Camera crews from BBC2 show The Planners have been following the saga and filmed the special meeting.
Cllr Crowe, who represents Saughall and Mollington, told the meeting he did not believe the council was corrupt but warned there was “a perception of guilt” among the public.
But deputy council leader Les Ford said it was “totally disgraceful” that people were questioning the integrity of the strategic planning committee.
The resubmitted application was due to be determined when the strategic planning committee meets on Thursday.
Although the committee could still discuss the scheme, members will not be able to decide the application and can only make a recommendation to the full council.
Should the village eventually gain permission, it would still have go to the Secretary of State for final approval because of the special protection around greenbelt.