DEVELOPERS who wanted to build a huge student village in Chester’s greenbelt look to have conceded defeat after a landslide loss in a crucial planning vote.
Bell Developments’ controversial scheme was first revealed in 2010 but has now been turned down twice in 10 months.
Along with the 2,300-bed village, the proposal also included a sports institute backed by Sir Steve Redgrave.
The applicants failed to convince councillors the scheme demonstrated the ‘very special circumstances’ needed to build in the greenbelt.
Planners recommended the application for refusal and that advice won near-unaminous support at a special full council meeting to be held at Chester Town Hall on October 3.
A previous application had been turned down in January, but Bell Developments resubmitted the plans and were bullish about changing councillors’ minds.
But the result stunned Bell Developments, the team behind the Redgrave Institute and Sir Steve, who addressed councillors at the meeting.
Now the applicants have issued a statement suggesting the heavy defeat could be the final nail in the coffin for the student village.
“Bell Developments, Sir Steve and all the team are extremely disappointed with the outcome on October 3,” said the statement.
“We have always believed in this scheme being the right way forward for the city and we were determined to bring it to fruition.
“It would have been an honour to have delivered what we believe is a world class sports village in our home city.
“We would like to thank all our supporters who have helped in this long campaign but respect the decision of full council.”
Bell Developments could appeal to Secretary of State Eric Pickles or submit the application again, but now seem unlikely to pursue either option.
The Leader understands the applicants were unhappy with the decision to allow the full council to decide the application, rather than the strategic planning committee.
Supporters of the student village were angry with the format of the meeting at Chester Town Hall, and have complained about poor sound and technical problems.
Chester Racecourse has been offered as an alternative site for the Redgrave Institute, but Sir Steve has already ruled that out and is believed to have turned his attentions elsewhere.
Anti-student village campaigners were delighted with the outcome of the vote and hope Sir Steve Redgrave will explore other potential sites for his sports institute.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has also been urged to get to grips with the issue of student accommodation in Chester, following claims some communities are suffering from having too many students.
Cllr Carolyn Graham, who represents Blacon, said: “Blacon residents and councillors are delighted with full council’s decision last week to reject this speculative development.
“Moving forward we would like to see Sir Steve take advantage of working with the racecourse for a more central sports institute and for the council to work closely with the university to develop a more cohesive solution to city centre student accommodation.”
Andy Scargill, of the Friends of North Chester Greenbelt group, said: “We welcome the decision by the full council to virtually unanimously come down in favour of rejecting the student village and thereby protecting the greenbelt.
“We also welcome the offer from the race company to accommodate Sir Steve’s institute on their own site and hope he will talk with them seriously about this.
“We are convinced that this is the start of a new era for Chester which should be to the benefit of everybody.”