The Great Warford home of Real Housewives of Cheshire star Dawn Ward is to become a spa retreat after councillors gave the plans the go-ahead.
Cheshire East Council’s northern planning committee overwhelmingly backed the plans from Dawn and ex-footballer husband Ashley Ward to transform Warford Hall at Wednesday’s meeting.
Officers had recommended the scheme for approval, but the council received 33 objections against the scheme, which was the latest part of a long planning saga involving Warford Hall.
Cllr Brian Thompson, chairman of Great Warford Parish Council, raised concerns that the plans would be ‘wholly unsustainable’.
He said: “Every trip in and out of Warford Hall by residents, visitors and staff would have to be made by car, therefore accepting to overlook our present circumstance of climate change – and indeed to add to it.”
Most of the concerns surrounded the impact of the plans on neighbouring residents – the same issue which saw the Wards’ lose their last attempt to convert Warford Hall into a wedding venue.
Donald Strathdee, from the Great Warford Residents’ Group, also highlighted noise concerns from the Wards’ previous Crème de la Crème charity balls.
He said: “Residents object to the imposition of unavoidable night-time noise. The applicants say there is no intention of hosting groups, weddings, etc.
“These are fine words, however, we have no confidence that the noise management plan would be observed.”
But Ashley told the committee that Warford Hall had been a commercial property for 120 years – and he insisted that a spa retreat had to be quiet in order to succeed.
He also suggested that the Crème de la Crème event would no longer be held at Warford Hall if it is turned into a spa retreat.
Ashley said: “It is ironic that in 2004 I had to win appeal against the council to enable me to turn the property from commercial use to residential.
“For clarity, we have no intentions now, or in the future, of holding the charity ball, weddings or any marquee events should this application be successful.
“The last thing we would want to do is make the investment required to make this happen and have a problem with residents.
“We will not operate this business if it is going to create nuisance. The first people that would be upset by any kind of nuisance are the guests, because it is a peaceful retreat.”
The committee raised concerns that the spa retreat could later be turned into a hotel for events without planning permission.
But officers confirmed that a planning condition could be included to prevent that from happening.
Cllr Tony Dean, Conservative member for Knutsford, said: “This is a young couple trying to start a new business and it might be good for our borough.
“We are a borough with a very strong economy – people starting businesses like this maintain that strength.”
However, Cllr Ian MacFarlane, Residents of Wilmslow member for Wilmslow West and Chorley, still had concerns about the possibility of noise affecting neighbouring residents.
He added: “I think it’s a great idea – a spa would be lovely, it’s in super surroundings, it is very, very pleasant, and it will do very well.
“My worry is about the hotel bit, the overnight accommodation, and the control of noise – that is a difficult thing.”
Councillors approved the plans by seven votes to one.