COUNCILLORS are being asked to approve plans to knock down Hartford’s college campus and build 108 homes in its place.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee will make a decision on the controversial scheme from Lane End Developments at a meeting on Tuesday, March 3.

It includes a move to demolish the £7.5 million sport and arts facilities on the site, which opened in 2012.

And ahead of the crucial decision, planning officers are recommending the plans for approval.

In a report published on Monday, CWAC officers said: “The proposed development will bring forward a brown field, vacant site, located in a sustainable and highly accessible location with good public transport connections, in the settlement of Northwich.

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“The site is also well located for existing local services including shops and health and leisure facilities.

"The proposed development will bring significant social benefits through the provision of an appropriate mix of housing types, tenures and sizes of housing and there will also be an economic benefit arising from construction employment and boost to the local spending services.”

Plans to build new houses on the site of Warrington and Vale Royal College’s Hartford campus were lodged with CWAC last February – three months after the college first showcased the plans alongside Lane End Developments.

Although officers want to see the plans approved, the developer is unlikely to get its way next week without a battle with objectors.

Cllr Patricia Parkes, Conservative member for Hartford and Greenbank, has called the application in for discussion by the planning committee – raising concerns about the loss of a community asset, Hartford’s infrastructure being stretched and the council already meeting its housing target.

Northwich Guardian:

When the plans were first unveiled, she told the Guardian: “I’m absolutely heartbroken.

“The arts block was brand new and cost millions, so we would like to see it passed onto Hartford Parish Council as a community asset.

“It is outrageous that the plan is for more housing.”

There has been opposition from Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale, who claimed the college had ‘taken a wrecking ball to further education’ in his constituency when the plans were announced.

Northwich Guardian:

Mike Amesbury with college staff and union reps

Mike said: "I’ve made it clear from the outset that I was opposed to these plans.

"While I appreciate that the college was under financial pressures, as has the wider FE sector been in the last 10 years due to government cuts, losing further education provision in Northwich is a devastating blow to the town.

“Equally worrying is the fact that more houses will put even more pressure on local infrastructure, which is already struggling to cope.”

Hartford Parish Council also wants the scheme turned down over a lack of supporting infrastructure and worsening air quality, with the village having already seen hundreds of new homes built in recent years.

Sport England previously objected to the loss of the sports facilities, but the body has now changed its stance thanks to a £984,000 contribution that will be made towards the Moss Farm complex if the scheme is approved.

Other financial contributions would include £204,812.76 towards Hartford C of E High School and £109,260 to support the potential future development of GP practices.