Cheshire West and Chester Council’s plans to keep Chester as one of the UK’s top places to live and visit have taken a significant step forward with councillors’ backing for development proposals for the city’s Northgate regeneration scheme.
The Council’s Full Council voted this evening (18 October) to support the revised vision for an initial phase of the project and to release money to start preparing the detailed plans in earnest.
And the Cabinet lead councillor spearheading the scheme said it must now be full steam ahead to start the building work in just over a year’s time.
Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure, Councillor Brian Clarke, said: “The complex detail of this scheme makes it easy to forget that it is about creating a modern city that builds on its heritage and benefits the lives of local people.
“I am pleased that we now have the backing of the Full Council to get on with the job of revitalising Northgate and creating jobs and opportunities for the city and the wider area.
“The recent good news about the CPO and this evening’s decision means we are now closer than ever to delivering on our promise to redevelop this important area of the city.
“It must be full steam ahead now. We are on track to start building work in early 2020 and hope to make an announcement soon about appointing a contractor partner to help us work up our plans.”
Shadow Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, Councillor Stuart Parker, said: “Northgate is at the heart of the ambitions for Chester as a must see destination, there has already been a transformation in the city following the completion of Storyhouse.
“The plans approved by Full Council will include a new and modern market, a six-screen cinema, restaurants, a public square and car parking.”
Meanwhile, the council is working on plans for future phases that deal with the changes being seen in the world of retail and, as a result, increase the emphasis on good quality housing, leisure and cultural attractions within the site.
Councillor Clarke, added: “We have a clear but realistic vision for Chester Northgate that will support a lively leisure and culture offer in the city, as outlined in the One City Plan. This project will benefit local retailers and Storyhouse and provide jobs, car parking, housing and office space in the heart of Chester.
“In the fast-moving world of development, things can change quickly and can challenge us, but our realistic approach means we are aware of the risks, have plans to manage these and we take care to only release funding in stages when there is a strong business case to do so and the project achieves its programme targets.
“Councils across the country are needing to take an active role in the regeneration of their town and city centres. But locally we always balance our potential investments with the level of risk – and when the time is right, we will seek investment from the private sector to deliver the remainder of the development.
“Our investment in this initial phase together with our investment in Storyhouse and the new bus interchange will provide confidence that the Council is serious and is willing to invest in the future of the city.”
The Full Council considered a report outlining a number of factors surrounding the project including bringing forward plans for an initial phase, securing the necessary budget to inform a future decision to enter into a construction contract, implementing a robust process for releasing funding against milestones achieved and recognising risks and their financial impact.
Councillors heard that the economic need to relocate the existing hotel has been significantly weakened with the withdrawal of House of Fraser from the scheme and that much-needed parking may go in its place.
The next year will be spent completing feasibility studies, appointing a preferred contractor, continuing tenant negotiations, submitting plans for approval and beginning construction enabling works.
Chester Northgate is part of the One City Plan that guides development across the city and last year saw the successful opening of Storyhouse. Since its opening the much-loved cultural centre has smashed its first year targets with over one million visitors.