COUNCILLORS will vote tonight on whether or not a hugely controversial student village should be built in Chester.
For the first time since Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) came into being in 2009, the full council will meet as a planning committee in Chester Town Hall.
Bell Developments want to build the 2,300-bed village and Sir Steve Redgrave sports institute on greenbelt land between Blacon and Mollington.
The Leader understands that Olympic legend Sir Steve will attend the meeting in an attempt to convince councillors to back the £100 million scheme.
Mike and Dave Bell are unhappy with the way the application has been handled and have written to every councillor outlining the reasons why the brothers believe the planning application should be approved.
The letter reads: “The student village and the Redgrave Institute is a serious development to deliver a real improvement to the student experience of Chester.
“This submission is deliverable, fundable and has end users in place ready to start work if it is approved.”
Planning chiefs threw out the previous application in January but the brothers vowed to battle on and resubmitted the application in May. The new application is identical to the one turned down in January and planning officers have again recommended the scheme should be refused.
But the developers have challenged the reasons for refusals and are confident they can overturn the original decision.
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.
Council leader Mike Jones has also come under fire for his friendship with Mike Bell, but Cllr Jones has already said he will not be taking any part in the vote.
The new application had been due to go before the strategic planning committee last month but five councillors, four Conservatives and a Liberal Democrat, tabled a motion calling for scheme to be determined by the full council instead.
That motion was passed by a narrow majority, meaning the council’s constitution could be changed and those councillors not currently involved in planning had to undergo rapid training.
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 are expected to film the meeting tonight.
Before the meeting starts each councillor will have to declare any interests in the application, such as friendships with the developers.
Councillors will then be asked to confirm their impartiality and to confirm they do not have a pre-determined position on the application.
Should the village gain permission tonight, it would have go to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, for final approval because of the special protection around greenbelt.