A controversial scheme to turn the roof of a Chester multi-storey car park into a retail and leisure hub has been passed unanimously by planning chiefs.
Cheshire West and Chester’s planning committee backed proposals to transform the top two decks of the Pepper Street site into a new venue which could feature a range of attractions from silent cinemas, craft fairs, yoga, food and drink stalls.
The application – submitted by Grosvenor and iKO Events Ltd – has proven controversial in some quarters, with concerns raised over noise and loss of parking by former ward councillor Martyn Delaney. A total of 20 objections had been received from the public, including from the Almhouses of William Jones Charity and the Bridgegate East Residents Association (BERA). A petition signed by 209 people opposing the scheme was also submitted.
Speaking at Tuesday’s planning meeting, Ian Gordan of iKO, told members, “The Grosvenor team have listened to, and acted upon, the advice and evidence of industry experts to ensure all aspects of both both the project and the building are fully safe and compliant, especially from a structural and fire safety perspective.”
He added, “As for the operation, it is not a nightclub. It is not another bar. It’s not even late night. We are proposing one of the earliest terminal hours in the city. What it is, is a social hub, a meeting place, a community space, somewhere for families, friends, colleagues, anyone, to get together, socialise and relax.”
Ward councillor Ben Walker said residents had raised a number of concerns with him, chief among them being noise.
He told the meeting, “Consider that this bar, this hub, this unit, is on top of a car park, which borders Park Street – almost entirely residential, Albion Street – almost entirely residential, and Volunteer Street – almost entirely residential. This is not just Pepper Street.”
“So considering that on top of a car park is a unique thing and this is one bar – this is one unit – unlike all others, and it has such in my mind requires more assurances than all others.”
Although it was unanimously backed by the committee, gathered objectors were told the scheme would still have to go through a licensing process where some of the other issues raised would be discussed.
If everything goes ahead, the scheme will see four re-purposed shipping containers for housing food and drink stalls installed. A further three shipping containers will provide hygiene facilities and storage. Covered units described as ‘cabanas’ will also be put in place.
A total of 69 car parking spaces will be lost from the top two levels, with a further four axed on the level below. Car parking provision will be reduced from 273 spaces to 200 on the remaining levels to provide parking for the venue.
Its planned opening hours will be 8am-10pm for a maximum capacity of 300 people. A total of 20 full-time and 30 part-time jobs will also be created according to the applicant.
The application was initially made to cover a period five years, but planning officers reduced that to three to monitor the development in light of the received objections.
Image: Artist impression of the rooftop venue (image from planning docs) and Cllr Ben Walker.