Cheshire West and Chester Council held a sod cutting ceremony to mark the start of the long awaited £70m Northgate scheme in Chester city centre.
The Council agreed to continue with funding for the scheme to ensure Chester bounces back from the pandemic and to provide a catalyst for post Covid-19 recovery that will create jobs, boost the visitor economy and drive economic growth.
The sod cutting marks the start of the main building works on site, on a scheme that has been many decades in the making.
Part of Chester’s One City Plan, Chester Northgate is a new cultural and leisure destination. Set to open in early 2022; the scheme will include an arched arcade from the former library frontage into a new public square, an indoor market hall – relocated from the Forum, a six screen cinema, cafes and restaurants, co-working office spaces and a multi-storey car park to replace the Market car park which will close once Northgate is completed.
The Council is working with its contractor Vinci Construction, to ensure the project is built following government guidance on social distancing and construction site working.
Chester Northgate is the most significant development in Chester for decades and has been designed to transform the city’s historic core, supporting the whole city to thrive. It is the next phase in the regeneration of the entire Northgate area following the creation of the award-winning Storyhouse cultural centre in 2017.
Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth, said: “Chester’s Northgate Development will breathe new life into our city, taking old inefficient buildings like the market and replacing them with something that is fit for purpose, both for traders and for customers. Supporting local business and creating new spaces for people to come together, spend time and learn new things in the post-Covid world is exactly what Northgate is all about.
“Town centres are in the midst of big change and Covid-19 has accelerated this process. If we want to support the city centre by attracting more visitors, if we want more people to be living in the city, if we want to give Storyhouse the setting that it deserves and if we love the market and want it to become an even bigger part of what it means to be in Chester, then Northgate is the future for all of these things.”
Councillor Stuart Parker, Conservative group committee member of the Northgate Members Working Group, said: “Having seen a number of proposed schemes for Northgate come and go over the past 20 years, it is especially pleasing to see work at last starting. The scheme has cross-party support due to the crucial role Northgate can play in our post Covid-19 recovery.”
Garry Bowker, Regional Director for the Northwest of VINCI Construction UK Limited said: “Despite the challenges of working during this pandemic, we are doing all we can to ensure our staff, contractors and suppliers can work efficiently and safely; we are extremely excited about starting on site and seeing the Northgate scheme come to fruition so that we can play our part in helping to boost the local economy.”
Caption: Taking part in the socially distanced sod cutting were L to R:
Rob Symons, Contracts Manager and Garry Bowker, Regional Director NW – both Vinci Construction; Tom Sharp, Apprentice Quantity Surveyor – CWaC; Cllr Samantha Dixon, Chair of the Northgate Members’ Working Group; Chloe Swift, Construction Apprentice – Vinci Construction; Andrew Lewis, Chief Executive – CWaC and Cllr Stuart Parker, Conservative group committee member – Northgate Members’ Working Group.