Plans to build on Chester’s reputation as a prime leisure and culture destination have been revealed by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Following the recent news that the council has been successful in securing the ministerial permissions needed to progress its Chester Northgate scheme, the vision for the next 12 months will now go before the council’s cabinet for approval in the coming weeks.
The £60 million ‘phase 1’ could see work begin on the site by the end of next year.
Plans for the mixed use development will include: a new, relocated market, a six-screen cinema, restaurants, a public square and car parking.
Work to design future phases of the scheme – to reflect recent fundamental changes in retail, and increase the importance of good quality housing, leisure and cultural attractions within the site – will also continue.
CWAC cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, Cllr Brian Clarke, said: “We have a clear vision for Chester Northgate that will support a lively leisure and culture offer in the city, as outlined in the One City Plan.
“It will support local retailers and Storyhouse and also provide much needed jobs, car parking, housing and office space in the heart of Chester.”
Cllr Clarke added: “Our aim is to deliver a mixed use scheme that’s ready for the next generation, rather than having to build something that’s a legacy of the last 10 years’ thinking.
“Doing nothing is not an option for us.”
He continued: “Northgate should not be seen in isolation. Its impact on Chester will be to support the whole of the city centre by improving our offer and encouraging more visitors.”
A report being presented to Cheshire West and Chester Council’s cabinet acknowledges the need to consider options for relocating the existing hotel, following the withdrawal of House of Fraser from the scheme, and that parking should be considered as part of the process.
The next year will be spent completing feasibility studies, appointing a preferred contractor, continuing tenant negotiations, submitting plans and beginning construction-enabling works.
It will bring significant regeneration and jobs to the area and pave the way for successful future phases.
Cllr Clarke cautioned: “With any project of this size there is always a certain amount of risk against an ever changing economic backdrop but that’s why we are open and transparent about these risks and our work to mitigate them.
“In this report an additional £6 million is being requested to bring us to a point where we can break ground on Phase 1.
“Funding will only be released following the agreement of the council’s cross-party working group.
“The capital will be released in portions after key milestones have been met to limit the risk to the public purse.”
Cllr Clarke concluded: “There will be significant consultation in the months to come which will allow the community and stakeholders the opportunity to shape the future of this part of the city.”
Chester Northgate is part of the One City Plan that guides development across the city and last year saw the successful completion of the Storyhouse project – incorporating a new 900 seat theatre, arthouse cinema, public library and new restaurant.
Shadow cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, Cllr Stuart Parker commented: “Phase 1 of Chester Northgate will create a significant new destination within the heart of the city, complementing other key One City Plan investments such as the Central Business Quarter, Storyhouse and the new bus station.
“Relocating Chester Market will be at the heart of the first phase, with ambitious plans to become one of the best markets in the country.
“It has been transformed over the past year, it has returned to full capacity, welcoming half a million visitors this year and there is now a waiting list for traders.”
Cllr Parker added: “If this momentum is to continue then it’s essential that the city responds to the dynamic changes that city’s like Chester are exposed to.
“Chester Northgate is the largest project the city has seen in decades and aims to secure its position in the country for years to come.”
Following the agreement of cabinet members on Monday 8th October, the plans will be shared with full council on Thursday 18th October.
In the new year, designs for Phase 1 will be finalised and shared.
Phase 1 already includes Picturehouse, Tapas Revolution, Cosy Club and Zizzi confirmed, and the council will continue its work to attract more businesses into Chester.
Updated plans for Phase 1 will be released in spring 2019.
Pre-construction and enabling works start in autumn 2019 and construction on site in early 2020. The timetable has a Phase 1 completion due in spring 2021.