Plans to create a watersports and outdoor activity centre at a former quarry in Chelford will be considered by the Strategic Planning Board for the fourth time next week.
Cheshire Lakes' plans for a cable wakeboard park, low ropes course, open water swimming, paddle sports, café, water sports shop, showers and changing facilities at the former Mere Farm sand quarry have endured a fairly unprecedented path through the planning process.
Having been considered on three 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 includes some ecological enhancements and more mitigation to seek to overcome the perceived negative impact.
Speaking about the revised application, Tim Woodhead the Managing Director of Cheshire Lakes, said "Some of the key enhancements include the creation of two new islands on the South Lake which will hopefully become breeding grounds for birds like Little Ringed Plovers. The creation of two sand banks to hopefully keep Sand Martins breeding on site as the lake banks restoration changes from sand to wet woodland. There are a number of other mitigation and enhancements which Cheshire Lakes believe make the site a greater asset for small birds than the current agreed quarry restoration plan would do, including new hedgerows, wild flower meadows and reed beds."
The planning officer is recommending that the approve the plans subject to Section 106 agreement.
A report prepared for the Strategic Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, 24th May, states:
The proposed development is considered to be acceptable in terms of the Green Belt, the use of the lakes maintains openness and the proposed buildings and structures are not considered to be inappropriate development within the Green Belt as they are appropriate for the proposed use.
The proposal is considered to be socially sustainable, the development would provide an opportunity for local residents to participate in sport particularly kayaking and swimming at the site along with utilising the enhanced public footpath network.
It is considered that the proposed development would be very positive in terms of contributing to the local rural economy and supporting local businesses. The proposed development will attract visitors from the local area and from further afield to use the facility. Therefore it makes a positive economic contribution.
In terms of environmental sustainability, the proposal would have a landscape impact, however this must be weighed in the balance, as it inevitably would introduce built development where there is none at the current time.
With regard to flood risk, noise, air quality, highways and design these matters are considered to be acceptable.
The site has a rich biodiversity, which is proposed to be enhanced further through the continued development of the restoration scheme. The biodiversity would suffer as a result of the proposals and in particular the birdlife at the site, however it is considered that the mitigation now proposed in combination with restricted use of the south lake would reduce the impact on species and would provide attractant features for birds of County importance such as Swifts.
When weighed in the planning balance, it is clear that there are a number of positives to the scheme but the impact on biodiversity, in particular birds will be significant. However it is considered that this harm can be mitigated through an extensive series of mitigation proposals.
The revised application can be viewed on the Cheshire East Council website by searching for planning reference 17/0510M.