WESTMINSTER PARK RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION
PUBLIC MEETING REGARDING THE WREXHAM ROAD DEVELOPMENT
HELD AT WP COMMUNITY CENTRE 8PM WEDNESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2017
Present: 90 persons as listed separately.
Pauline Brown opened the meeting and introduced Peter Cocker (ex Highways), Brian Westcott, Jennifer Crew from the WPRA WRD sub committee and Neil Sullivan, our local Councillor.
Brian Westcott chaired the meeting, almost exactly a year since the last public meeting(s). The purpose of this meeting is to bring everyone up to date, which was advertised in the newsletter (sent to every house), website and noticeboards so everyone on WP should be informed.
The Council has produced a strategy which gave a figure of 5000 houses needed in the Chester area by 2030. The land by Wrexham Road was redesignated from Green Belt so it can be built on. The plan said that 830 houses could be built, the developers have put in an application for 1300, but have since moved the ‘mitigation area’ outside of this land and now plan to build 1450 houses.
The land is owned jointly by house builders Redrow and Taylor Wimpey. At the
present time an application has been received from Redrow for full permission to
build 509 houses plus an application for outline permission for a local centre to
include a primary school, health centre, shops, etc. An application from T-W is
expected but has not yet been received. Documents are available to view on the
Council website or in the Lache Library.
WPRA and our local councillors have studied the documents and discussed the
issues with the builders, council officers, Welsh Water and other parties. We accept
that planning permission for the development is likely to be approved eventually but
wish to influence the development in order to minimise adverse effects on the
quality of life of WP residents.
Changes from the original application that we have brought about so far are that there will be no vehicle access into Lache Lane. Also the proposal that the Primary School would be built when the 800th house had been built has been brought forward to earlier in the scheme.
Objections/comments can be submitted to the Council. WPRA are producing a submission on behalf of residents and a summary of this was circulated (also available on the wp-ra website). This meeting is to let residents have their say to be included in the submission.
Six items have been identified to be commented on :
- Numbers and types of dwelling
- Ecological mitigation
- Transport: Peter Cocker commented on the plans. Vectos are the Transport Consultant for the Developers who took the view that as traffic gets worse people will change their habits. They have also assumed that three quarters of traffic will not be heading towards Chester. This means that Highways England have to become involved as the A55 is a main Highway. The Business Park and Kings School have also produced reports and employed consultants. The Council are now employing new consultants. The Vectos report is very detailed and lengthy with a lot of data, not all of it relevant.
How will this impact us – new lanes on the A55 at junctions, the three junctions onto the Development from Wrexham Road, the Overleigh Roundabout – where we do not want a ‘Hamburger roundabout’ as at Sainsbury’s. There are some reasonable proposals for the roundabout, widening lanes etc. However at the rush hour and particularly morning peak hours the traffic will still be held back by the Grosvenor Bridge. We have no objections to the plans for the Overleigh Roundabout but point out that it will not help at peak hours.
What the Council should be doing is pushing for the Western Relief Road which has been talked about for many years. The Business Park and the Park and Ride have been built in that time. There is/was a protected line from Bumpers Lane but so much has changed since then and this protected line is no longer feasible.
In Part 2 of the Local Plan the Western Relief Road (WRR) is part of the medium to long term strategy and should be brought forward with funding from the Developers to help. This may involve discussions with the Welsh Authorities as there is no doubt the development will go ahead. The housing is planned up to 2030 but already time is passing. There could be 12-14 years of construction.
Arriva buses have been in discussions to route the No 1 bus through the development but want to keep the link with the business park. This means that there will be a stop on the WP side of Wrexham Road (though will be close to Kings School).
There is no magic solution and the developers and the Council do not offer one. This is the item that most residents are most concerned about.
Ian Gilfoyle (ex Chester Planning) spoke and said that WPRA should object on the grounds of Traffic, being the main objection that could bring about refusal.
Someone asked if there had been any involvement with the MP for Wrexham as it will impact them.
Someone who lives on the West side of Wrexham Road and is a keen cyclist finds there are many times he cannot drive in. However crossing Grosvenor Bridge on bicycles is very dangerous.
Brian commented that the Developers have suggested a cycling route via Handbridge which is a diversion.
Angela Reeves thanked the sub committee for their work and asked what is the structural capacity of the bridge. There must be a formula for this calculation and how it will stand up to greater capacity. This could possibly be used to increase leverage for the new WRR.
Neil Sulllivan said the Council employs a Bridge Engineer and he will contact him to see how Grosvenor Bridge is coping.
Colin Dollimore commented that the numbers of Council employees working in
Chester must be diminishing as they are moving to Ellesmere Port.
Neil Sullivan said that Peter’s comments on the WRR are up to date. Plans have changed and there has been contact with the Welsh Assembly for a plan further into Wales and the long term safe guarded route has now been abandoned.
Part 1 of the Local Plan was for big strategic issues.
Part 2 of the Local Plan is now available to view on the Council website and includes more detail about transport, WRR. There is a high level of partnership working between Chester and the Welsh Assembly which could lead to a route which will help. Policy T1 retains a commitment to produce a relief road.
A resident from Lache Lane said that the noise from the road surface is loud, also the bus up Lache Lane once an hour is not enough and the lights at the roundabout let too few cars through.
One comment said that access from the new estate onto Lache Lane could help those heading for Air Bus etc, but this was a minority view.
Someone asked if the trees in the roundabout would remain, we believe that the big trees will remain though some bushes may go if lanes are widened.
How was the 1200/1400 figure set?
Neil Sullivan reiterated that more housing was in the Local Plan and the Council redesignated the land and need to produce the number of houses in their plan. The Phase 1 (Redrow) application is for 509 house.
If the housing needs are being met why are all these houses being built?
The Local Plan which has been passed is now a fact which takes us to 2030. Even if there is a delay there will have to be another local plan and it could be that more houses will be needed in Chester. Using delaying tactics could delay this being passed. Putting conditions on the Developer is a way forward.
The worst thing that could happen is for the development to be refused as it would go to appeal and then go through. It will go ahead as fast as the Developer can sell houses, possibly 100 a year?
If we get the conditions imposed we need to ensure the builders are kept to them.
- Numbers and types of dwelling: There has previously been a local demand for one-bedroom houses and bungalows. Most houses in the plan are 3-4 bedroom houses. The Grosvenor Estate say the affordable housing will be built at the end.
From 830 to 1400 houses, we will object on that basis.
Someone suggested that the Council should impose what houses are built when.
Neil Sullivan replied that Developers will plead poverty and try to persuade that the number of affordable houses are cut.
We need to make sure the mix is right.
Owen ? said that affordable housing is cheaper, maybe 60/80% of market value, but Milne Homes on Sherbourne Avenue appear only to be building big houses.
It has been checked that Milne Homes are building nine affordable homes.
Angela Reeves asked if there were any leasehold properties. The builders have said no.
There is a demand for bungalows, older people have been encouraged to downsize but no bungalows are being built.
Mixed developments make for better communities. Housing has to suit the needs of people at different stages in life and not become ghetto-ised.
- Drainage: Surface water – the Developers are building attenuating tanks to prevent flooding.
- Foul water/sewage – we have met with Welsh Water who say there is a need to upgrade the system and they will conduct a review of the whole area and this has been done. There are nine possible solutions and whichever is chosen needs to be implemented before construction starts. Welsh Water consider these solutions are
There is a very high water table which is well known. Thirty years ago promises were made which were not kept to.
Peter Cocker said that we need to see the proposals for surface and foul drainage. We have been told of the attenuation tanks and oversized pipes but for foul water/sewage we have no details of any of the nine schemes and need to see the plans. Welsh Water and the Council must be sure it will work.
The consultants walked through the site in summer 2015 which was very dry and commented that there were ‘no records of flooding in the area’ which was surprising.
- Education: The Developers provide the infrastructure for the school and the plan was that the school would be ready when the 800th house was built. There has been a meeting with Christleton Education Trust who are interested in building and running the school. They think they might be able to obtain funding from central government. The school should be built sooner rather than later otherwise it will disrupt existing schools and add to traffic problems.
Tony Austin asked about capacity in existing local schools. There are no places at Belgrave, some at the Lache school. Queens Park (secondary school) has capacity at the moment.
- Health: The Developers have included provision of a health centre. There is a meeting set up with the Health Authority and it would appear they want to build a big centre to replace all South Chester surgeries which if it is located on the development will add to the transport problems.
- Environmental Mitigation: Jennifer Crew said that there were two applications, one for the main housing estate, and another for the Ecological Mitigation area. At present there are: six ponds on site which contain newts, toads, frogs and othr wildlife as well as trees with barn owls and bats. All of these will have to move. Ponds will be filled in and newts, toads etc moved to the Mitigation Area which was originally part to be part of the development site. Now it would appear to be in a separate piece of land south of the site, straddling Lache Lane, thus allowing the developers to build another 100 houses on the main site. This will also mean loss of foraging habitat for animals including the barn owls, as the area of mitigation is one sixth of the size of the current site. Is this viable? The right location?
Part of the Ecological Mitigation area is in the path of the proposed WRR. The application number for this area is 17/02444/FUL. Attendees were urged go make separate objections to this application.
Brian Westcott thanked everyone for attending and was very grateful for all the comments made which will help us build up our response. He also urged as many as possible to send in individual submissions as the more comments there are make our voice better heard.