A WORLD class water sports hub will be built on the banks of the River Dee in Chester after plans were given the green light.
Supporters of the project for Queen’s Park High School’s Rowing Club and Boathouse say the new centre will allow the city to rival the likes of Oxford and Henley.
It will also allow families from all walks of life to use its facilities, as well as the Scouts Canoe Club, Chester Deva Canoe Club and Chester Riverside Canoe Club.
Queen’s Park High is said to be one of just a handful of state schools nationwide that run a rowing club and Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee unanimously backed its expansion plans at a meeting yesterday evening.
Cllr Louise Gittins, deputy council leader and cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, told members the new hub would be both “innovative and inclusive”.
“This is a project that will have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our community and will improve our children’s life chances,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
A third of children and almost two thirds of adults in the borough are overweight or obese, she said, and a water sports hub would help address the issue.
It would open its doors to a further five state schools, ensuring youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds had the same opportunities as those from privileged ones.
Cllr Samantha Dixon, council leader and a lifelong rowing fan, said the new hub would build on Chester’s reputation in the sport and create future champions.
“The River Dee is simply one of the best rivers in the world for rowing,” she told the committee.
Members were also told that Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave had reportedly described the Dee in Chester as one of the best stretches of river for rowing and canoeing outside London.
However, it was also noted that a number of residents living close to the site on Lower Park Road, Queen’s Park, had raised concerns about the plans.
The new larger building, which would replace the current “eyesore” boathouse, and expanded 46-space car park could create noise, pollution and extra traffic, and would encroach on the meadows.
About 20 letters of opposition had been sent to the council, including one from the Civic Trust which feared the building would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area.
However, 10 people wrote in support of the project and no objections were received from relevant bodies including the Environment Agency and the council’s conservation officer.
One resident said the facility would be a “fabulous addition to Chester and would place it alongside Oxford when it comes to water sports facilities”.