Plans to turn office space used by the British Sub Aqua Club into flats have been approved – despite the concerns of the Health and Safety Executive.
Cheshire West and Chester’s planning committee voted to ignore a recommendation by the council’s own planning officers to reject proposals to turn the site at Telford’s Quay in Ellesmere Port into eight new properties.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had objected due the resulting change in housing density near what it branded a ‘major hazard site’ at Innospec Manufacturing Park.
Recommending refusal, a report to the committee said, “The development would result in an increase in the number of people being subjected to threshold levels of risk within the vicinity of a hazardous installation and has limited economic and regeneration benefits to weigh against this risk.”
But at a planning meeting held yesterday (Tuesday), chiefs voted to go against the recommendation.
The meeting was told that the British Sub Aqua Club – the national governing body for scuba diving and snorkelling in the UK – had changed its working practices since the pandemic, resulting in office space being freed up.
The club’s chief executive Mary Tetley, told the meeting, “The impact of COVID and hybrid working has meant that we do not need such a large office, and our aim is to sell the current building and downsize locally to a smaller office in Ellesmere port.
“The office has been on the market since 2020. We have had no interest as office accommodation, but now finally have a buyer but only if we get residential planning permission.”
She added: “We’re aware that the HSE have raised concerns about our application – no one else has.
“The requested development work is within an existing building attached to residential buildings. There is no change to the layout of the building needed inside but outside remains as it is.
“This is because this building was originally designed to be apartments like all of the others surrounding it, the apartment entrance doors and windows and communal stairways are all in the same place as they should be for the eight apartments.”
Committee member Cllr Myles Hogg, was equally unmoved by the HSE’s objections. He told the meeting, “I do understand why we’re getting the recommendation to refuse but can I remind colleagues that most of Ellesmere Port is in a safety hazard zone and many, many houses have been approved in that zone.”
The committee voted by majority to reject the officers’ recommendation meaning the scheme can now go ahead. The HSE now has three weeks to decide whether or not to ask the Secretary of State to call in the plans.