What is Chester Northgate?

Chester Northgate is the most significant development in Chester for decades and will transform the city’s historic core, supporting the whole city to thrive.

It will create jobs, increase tourism and drive economic growth and provide a crucial catalyst for the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phase One of Chester Northgate created 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.

Opened in autumn 2022; the scheme includes 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 was closed once Northgate Phase One was completed.

How much has it cost?

The total cost of the Northgate Phase One scheme has been £75m, made up of:

  • £65.6m for the scheme construction
  • £6.4m for the city centre infrastructure build – including  a new surface water drainage tunnel

What security measures are there?

Our priority has been to always make sure that Northgate and the new market are a safe and secure place for our visitors, staff, tenants and traders.

We have included a wide range of security measures in place including CCTV, trained staff and work closely with Cheshire Police and other city centre partners to ensure everyone is welcome and safe throughout the city centre.

If you have any concerns and see anything that doesn’t feel right please contact a member of staff for assistance or call 999.

How can Northgate be justified from an environmental and sustainability perspective?

In developing Northgate Phase One scheme we consulted widely and received over 1,000 comments many of which have been in relation to environmental and sustainability issues, alongside ecology and archaeological considerations.

Northgate is not a new shopping centre. It is a new a new market and leisure destination in the heart of Chester, combining open streets, parades and plazas that will integrate seamlessly with the surrounding parts of the city and build on the success of the adjacent Storyhouse cultural centre.

We designed Northgate to be a unique development in the borough, fit for the future and adaptable to future needs. Sustainability has been at the heart of the planning and design process.

The site is easily accessed by public transport and walking whilst the green walls will provide a ‘green lung’ in the city. The scheme also included major investment in a new city centre rainwater drain which will reduce flooding and sewage outfalls into the River Dee plus reduce energy in treating non-foul water.

Four new trees have been included in the central new public square, and there is over 750 square metres of green walls incorporated to the car-park, cinema, market and Princess Street frontages; these will capture over 980kg of carbon annually, the equivalent of planting 38 trees.

The scheme also includes significant provision for cycle parking and the car park benefits from extensive electric vehicle charging facilities, provide a much safer and accessible facility than the current Market car park and make use of sustainable materials.

The scheme achieved BREEAM Very Good certification of the assessment of the environmental, social and economic sustainability performance, using standards developed by the Building Research Establishment, one of the world’s leading building science centres.

Not all of Northgate is about new buildings; this first Northgate phase includes the refurbishment  of the old library building to form an entrance arcade into the new public square, new offices, plus cafes and restaurants.

How are you addressing Social Value & Corporate and Social Responsibility?

The Council project team worked closely with VINCI Construction UK (VCUK) to deliver a programme of social value and Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) activities throughout the duration of the Northgate Project. These can be defined the difference an organisation or project can make to the community they are operating within, and acts of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically oriented practices.

Working in partnership, we believe Social Value is about creating a positive change in someone’s life, and the value that creates whether through supporting a person, a community, a local business or improving the area they live in.

Throughout the project we were able to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Chester area. We have generated new employment opportunities, supported employment of local people, reinvested construction spend to local suppliers, supported apprenticeship programmes and undertaken community activities as well as providing local people with the training they need to progress, to name a few.

See the summary report outlining some of the outputs we delivered, including 921 Apprentice weeks, 123 employment opportunities, 238 work placement weeks and 200 tonnes of sand donated to Chester Zoo!

Were any materials from the former Town Hall Bus Interchange be recycled?

Yes, only a small percentage of the existing concrete and bricks from the former bus interchange have not been used in the construction of the new Northgate scheme. All the hardstanding’s from the bus station have been crushed on site and re-used to form the foundations of the new development. The top soil recovered from the site was also used by a local supplier. A number of the old bus shelters have also been repurposed by schools, a sports club and Cheshire Fire & Rescue service.

Overall, across the whole site 99.66% of all waste was recycled.

Furthermore, much of the Roman red sandstone blocks recovered as part of the archaeology excavations on the site were reused by skilled stonemasons to repair the city walls and match the existing stones used.

Is the scheme compatible with a Climate Emergency?

The Council has declared a Climate Emergency and we are actively addressing the impact of carbon and other greenhouse gases with a target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 for the Council and 2045 for the borough. Our strategy therefore takes into account all the Council does with regard to its estate and works with partners to identify strategies and initiatives at a borough-wide level. As part of this work we have established a Climate Emergency Taskforce who meet monthly. They are developing a Climate Emergency Response Plan which is due to be presented to Council in winter 2020.

This is a public forum in which residents are welcome to engage and pose questions or comments to the Taskforce. The Council has also committed financial resources to carbon reduction, with a provision of £7.5m of dedicated capital funding for this purpose over the next four years. More information on our response to the Climate Emergency is available at: https://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/your-council/councillors-and-committees/the-climate-emergency/the-climate-emergency.aspx

Why was a new car park needed?

Although we built a new car park, it is to replace the Market and Trinity St. car parks, (Trinity St. in Phase 2) so no net additional city centre spaces will be added as a result of Northgate. On this basis the predicted car park trips will be no greater than at present and will avoid further carbon impacts associated with traffic.

The car park incorporates provision for electric vehicle charging to support the increase in low carbon transportation. The design of the car park has been worked through in great detail to limit the ongoing operational energy consumption and, therefore, carbon impact.

The Energy Statement submitted for planning confirms a number of the energy efficient design elements which have been included in the car park design, these include;

  • Fully naturally ventilated, with open sides. This saves embodied/operational energy in providing mechanical ventilation plant in the car parking areas, which saves on embodied and future operational energy
  • No heating/cooling to car park areas, fully passive space.
  • Timeclock controls on lighting system, with separate timeclock for roof level lighting
  • LED lighting throughout with presence detection controls in both core and car park areas, zoned and grouped to minimise energy use
  • The new car park will include electric vehicle charging points from day one, and with the capacity for future expansion in charging provision, as the adoption of electric vehicles increases
  • Energy efficient lift design includes ultra-efficient permanent magnet motors with VVVF drives, and controls to enter standby energy saving mode for periods of low usage
  • The car park will also include nesting boxes for swifts and bats as part of the scheme.

For more information, please see the Energy Statement for the scheme submitted with the planning application for Northgate:


The Council is progressing options for a wider sustainable transport strategy, and the use of the Northgate car park will be constantly monitored to ensure it provides a viable economic asset, if this changes we would consider alternative viable options for re-use.

As previously stated, Northgate will not create a net addition of car parking, it will serve future phases of development and that any reduction in spaces that may come about from policy reviews would be in the closure of the poorer quality car parks around the city.

What was the investment rationale for Northgate?

We have worked with a wide range of development consultants to help shape the investment plans for Northgate Phase One, which have evolved over the past 20 years and their expertise has helped shape our development strategy; these include the Urban Land Institute which undertook a peer review study of Chester with experts across Europe coming together to critique Chester’s offer.

The result of this was the Chester One City Plan which provides a template for the council’s redevelopment of sites within the city.

The Council is advised by BNP Paribas on the investment value of Northgate. The analysis they provide takes into account all relevant issues that will impact the commercial value of the scheme. This includes the potential positive and negative impacts of the changing perceptions on environmental and social issues and how best to manage these risks.

In evaluating the investment criteria for Northgate, the Council has taken into consideration a wide range of factors other than a purely commercial return, thus any payback will be from a wider range of sources such as a positive economic boost for Chester, increased business rates, and Council Tax should future phases include housing.

This will be in addition to rents and income received from the scheme as part of the wider benefits that will flow to the Council once the scheme is completed.

What about wider ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investment criteria?

We believe the scheme is positive in terms of its ESG criteria – the car park is not an increase in net spaces, the outdoor public square and indoor community space in the market will help reduce social isolation, we are encouraging local entrepreneurs to run their own independent businesses championing local produce and a town centre cinema and other facilities with good public transport links will reduce driving to other attractions elsewhere such as Cheshire Oaks.

The new drainage tunnel separates foul from rainwater and divert sewage from the river. In addition, the quality of the car park and other facilities’ user experience will exceed current standards in terms of appearance, safety, security and access.

Why couldn’t other parts of Chester be redeveloped instead?

Regarding the wider regeneration of Chester and using vacant units, this posed many challenges both in terms of ownership and viability – the Council does not own many properties – and their size, accessibility and location, make a co-ordinated regeneration scheme very complex to achieve; plus the existing owners have their own varying objectives and investment strategies.

Therefore the Council took the decision to purchase the Northgate site and create a unique cultural and leisure destination, not a new shopping centre as was proposed in earlier iterations of the scheme, from which to help ensure a diverse and thriving city centre.

How will the Northgate Phase One scheme be financed?

The Council’s approval of the Phase One scheme in November 2019 was on the basis of a future valuation of the development. However in view of the unprecedented situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, in May 2020, the Council agreed to fund the Northgate scheme on a traditional public sector ‘payback’ basis which will ensure that the capital expenditure is written down over a period of 25 years and is factored into the Council’s annual budget.

This is a prudent approach to manage risk as it does not rely on any residual value of the asset to repay debt. This is a more judicious basis on which to proceed and given that the construction programme for the project was two years, this provided time for the economy to recover from the forecast recession as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and provided a major catalyst for recovery that created jobs, boosted the visitor economy and helped drive economic growth.

On this basis, the Council reaffirmed support for the scheme, as a critical element in the recovery of Chester from the pandemic, and a long-term investment in the cultural life of the city.

There appears to be a lot of risk attached to this project – was it mistake taking it on?

This is a long term investment in the city and as a local authority we have the advantage that our development plans are driven by achieving long term benefits for residents, businesses and visitors. No other developer was in a position to deliver Northgate.

This was a unique opportunity to revitalise this historic part of the city centre and improve our leisure offer for residents, businesses and visitors. It created around 300 jobs, supported existing businesses and drove up visitor numbers. Doing nothing was not an option.