Planning committee divided over waterpark plans


Controversial plans to create a watersports and outdoor activity centre at a former quarry in Chelford were considered by the Strategic Planning Board again this week.

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

Having been considered on four previous occasions by the Strategic Planning Board, the application was first refused, then approved, then refused again. Subsequently a revised application, which included some ecological enhancements and more mitigation to seek to overcome the perceived negative impact, was recommended for approval by the planning officer 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.

The current proposal was 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.

The plans were approved by members of the Strategic Planning Board by 5 votes to 4 today (Wednesday, 26th February).

Coucillor David Jefferay said "It was difficult because the planning inspector who ruled on the appeal of the previous application refused it on the basis of harm to the openness of the greenbelt but stated that the effect on ecology was not substantial enough to warrant refusal. This time, the development was scaled down and some members took the view that the harm to the green belt was now outweighed by the benefits of the facility."

He added "In my eyes the revised plans were not significantly smaller than the original and i was of the opinion that the impact was still too much so I voted against. I was also swayed by the fact that there are some really quite rare birds on the site which give it "county status" and I didn't want to risk disturbing them even though that is a reason that perhaps would not stand up at appeal."

Additional facilities at the waterpark will 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 also includes a new access onto Alderley Road. Parking would be provided for 54 cars, including four accessible parking spaces, and 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.

Cheshire Lakes, Planning Applications, Strategic Planning Board


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

Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 26th February 2020 at 10:33 pm
I can appreciate why the committee was divided. In principle sounds like a good idea to regenerate a disused quarry and boost the local economy. And according to the Officers report in line with the Councils own Local Plan Strategy on this occasion and when it was last refused in May 2017.

But the last application was refused by this committee and the appeal by the applicant to "The Planning Inspectorate" was also dismissed.

"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."

Who should the councillors believe? Their officers, or a "higher authority"?
David Jefferay
Thursday 27th February 2020 at 10:19 am
Stuart, to be fair, the latest application causes much less of an impact than the one the inspector reviewed. To me though it was much less the size of the buildings and more the activity (wakeboarding, open water swimmers and 'wipe out' style assault course) and the disturbance it is going to cause to the wildlife that was the concern.
Mark Russell
Thursday 27th February 2020 at 1:50 pm
All the council need to do is look at other quarries that have been re purposed in the uk. Capernwray, Bristol, Stoney cove to name a few. They now provide jobs for the local community and the areas are a haven for all types of animals, fish , birds etc. They need to look forward and drag the area into the 21st century.
Jon Williams
Thursday 27th February 2020 at 3:10 pm
I don't think C/E can see past Dunham Massey in the north, Audlem in the south, Cat and Fiddle in the east and Peckforton in the east Mark.