Planning board to decide on revised plans for water sports park


Revised plans to create a water sports activity centre at a former quarry in Chelford will be considered by the Strategic Planning Board next week.

Cheshire Lakes' plans for a watersports and outdoor activity centre at the former Mere Farm sand quarry have endured a fairly unprecedented path through the planning process.

The current proposal is reduced in relation to what was previously proposed, with the watertsports activities now restricted to only a portion of North Lake. The proposal also includes two new islands, which would be constructed on the south lake, as part of the ecology measures.

Additional facilities would be provided in a series of container type structures including a reception and office, kit stores, changing facilities and toilets. On the lake, there would be two buoy lines and an area for a seasonal inflatable course. The remainder of the lake would be available for swimming, with the exception of an exclusion zone around the existing island.

The scheme would also include a new access onto Alderley Road. Parking would be provided for 54 cars, including four accessible parking spaces. There would also be space for coach parking. The parking and ancillary features would be located on an area of grassland between the north lake and Alderley Road.

Previous plans have been considered on five separate occasions by the Strategic Planning Board, the application was first refused, then approved, then refused again because they considered it would have a detrimental impact on biodiversity at the site and in particular on the birdlife.

Cheshire Lakes' subsequently submitted a revised application which included some ecological enhancements and more mitigation to seek to overcome the perceived negative impact.

The planning officer recommended that the revised plans be approved at a Strategic Planning Board meeting in May 2017, however committee members voted to refuse the application by 6 votes to 5.

An appeal against this refusal was dismissed in October 2017. In dismissing the appeal, the Inspector concluded that, while the development would provide appropriate facilities for outdoor sport and recreation, it would constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt, due to its harmful impact on openness. There were no material considerations, which would outweigh this harm. Consequently, very special circumstances were not found to exist.

The planning officer is recommending the revised plans for approval at their meeting on Wednesday, 26th February, subject to 26 conditions.

The planning officer concluded "The proposed development would provide appropriate facilities for outdoor sport and recreation. The introduction of buildings would inevitably result in some harm to openness in its immediate context. However, the nature of the use means a countryside location, where restrictive policies apply is highly likely. The built form proposed would also be the minimum necessary to enable the use to take place. The harm to the openness of the Green Belt would be limited by the limited spread of development and the low height of the structures.

"A condition requiring the removal of all structures and hardstanding on cessation of use would further limit the harm. Taking all of the above into account, it is considered on balance that the development would not be inappropriate within the Green Belt. The proposal would result in some harm to biodiversity on the lakes, even with the implementation of the mitigation scheme. However, this harm would not be so significant, as to warrant a refusal on biodiversity grounds. "

Plans can be viewed on the Cheshire East Council website by searching for reference 19/2513M.

Cheshire Lakes, Planning Applications, Strategic Planning Board


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Guy Beardsley
Wednesday 19th February 2020 at 11:43 am
This is a fantastic scheme and I have everything crossed that it is finally approved to go ahead.

Best of luck to the owners / team that are bringing it to Cheshire.
Lynne Prescott
Thursday 20th February 2020 at 5:01 pm
Given the number of time planning officers recommendations for approval seem to run contrary to planning inspectors view and planning committee, I wonder whether we should be looking for additional training for our CEC planning officers to ensure they take their responsibilities to local planning laws, regulation and green belt guidance fully into account?
Paul Maddock
Saturday 22nd February 2020 at 1:43 pm
Further to the comments above, this is not a case of the CEC planning officers needing more training - their hands are tied by often contradictory legislation passed by different government - both local and national - departments which have different priorities and ideas of what should and should not be allowed on such greenfield/brownfield cross-over sites (bearing in mind this is a former quarry site) within designated green / green belt. It is the complex and contradictory planning laws that need overhauling or at the very least, the clarifying of the order in which such legislation should be prioritised regarding such sites.

Planning officers are often in a dammed-if-they-do / dammed-if-they-don't situation with such sites and it is difficult to balance the needs of both providing sustainable rural developments providing local jobs and facilities for public to access and re-use former industrial sites, with the impacts that such developments inevitably have on the environment and local flora and fauna.

It is to be commended that such a development has neither been rushed through or turned down completely, and a pragmatic approach appears to have been taken by both the proposer and the planning committees in trying to find practical solutions to mitigate as many of the negatives while still opening the access to re-use an otherwise 'dead' site and allow public access to an otherwise unused potential rural asset.

I for one hope the proposal as it now stands is allowed permission and that the site can be used for both recreational and safety (water) uses as well as becoming a potential nature refuge which can encourage and increase biodiversity in the local area while also providing a site for our younger generation of budding environmentalists to learn and experience an active environmental project in their local area.