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University of Chester Ordered to Close £120m Facility

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

The University of Chester has been ordered to dismantle a £120m facility due to student health concerns.

Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee rejected a retrospective application to allow the learning centre to be used, based on advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The move will be disastrous for the university which has been running the science and engineering department at its Thornton Science Park since 2014.

The HSE suggested students would be at risk if there was a toxic gas release or explosion from the oil refinery located next door.

Not only will the closure result in implications for students but also technology companies who chose to move to the science park due to working relationships with the university.

The facility also forms part of the Cheshire Science Corridor and the government's Northern Powerhouse vision.

Members were split but voted seven votes to four against the facility changing its designation from industrial to an educational site.

Although some councillors saw the financial benefits the facility would bring to the university and for Cheshire, others were hesitant to go against the HSE recommendation.

There has been confusion about how the site has been allowed to operate since 2014 without the appropriate planning consent in place.

Council legal officer Pamela Chesterman indicated the authority had been uncomfortable with the situation since at least 2016, telling members: "If you are minded to refuse this, we will have to consider enforcement action because the longer we allow this to go on, the culpability or the potential for the council to be linked in some way to allowing the use of the university facilities draws us into the causal link."