The Chester Northgate consultation gathered many ideas and suggestions and every comment has been considered by the team.
Thanks to over a thousand people who contributed to the plans, we have been able to make some changes to the look and feel of the development.
With such a level of interest, it’s not possible to respond to every point made but strong themes did emerge. Here are some of the main suggestions and how they have been used by the architect.
A great deal of work goes into planning a development of this scale. Public consultation is important but we also need to consider what is possible in a complex city centre site as well as existing planning approvals.
The consultation process:
The consultation for the design proposals for Chester Northgate has been extensive, this has included:
- Presentation of the outline plans in the shop unit in The Forum Shopping Centre from 20 February with the formal public consultation running from 20 March to 18 April. Council staff were available to answer questions and share the ideas behind the current proposals.
- Invitations to the consultation were sent to over 150 local groups, organisations and businesses.
- Meeting over 1000 visitors to the shop and receiving over 800 comments for consideration.
- Comments made online
- Meetings with local groups and businesses including Storyhouse, the Cathedral, Chester University, residents groups, creative groups, Good For Nothing, charities and local schools.
- Councillor briefings.
- Tenant briefings.
- Presentations to Chester Growth Partnership representing the business community.
- Ongoing consultation with expert advisors including Corporate Disability Access Forum (CDAF), Age Friendly Cheshire West and Chester Core Group, Older Peoples Network Group, Learning Disability Board, Historic England, Civic Trust and Council officers for conservation and design, environmental protection, biodiversity, landscape, access and archaeology.
- Quality of public realm
- Independent retailers
- Multi-storey car park
- Cycle storage
- Sustainable development
Q. Can accessibility be fully considered to make sure everyone can enjoy the new development?
A key priority is to ensure that access and movement across the site works for everyone. We’ve consulted with the Corporate Disability Access Forum (CDAF) who have had a significant input on the development of the plans:
We’ve done as much as possible to keep gradients to a minimum. Lift access is provided at Princess Street and Hunter Street and we’ve included resting points across the site, specifically on Hunter Street.
As a result of feedback:
- The lifts in the car park have been changed from standard size to a larger capacity for ease of access for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs.
- An additional lift has been added into the Hunter Street Car Park to improve access for all from Hunter Street, particularly for Storyhouse.
- The size of some of the disabled parking spaces in the car park has been increased. These will be above standard size for ease of getting in and out of vehicles as well as space for movement around the vehicle.
- The public toilet provision within the market has been dramatically improved to provide male, female, changing places, accessible and gender neutral toilets as well as introducing baby changing and baby feeding facilities.
- Bike rack/storage facilities will be provided across the site.
Q. Is the development easily accessible by bus?
There will be a facility for buses and coaches to stop on St Martins Way between Hunter Street and Princess Street which offers the potential to be incorporated into bus routes.
There are a number of existing bus stops in the immediate area. The nearest bus stops to the site are at Canal Street, George Street and Upper Northgate Street which is a four to five minutes walk. The Shopper Hopper will continue to run until August 2019 when the service will be reviewed.
As a result of the consultation, dedicated bus/coach drop-off bays have been provided on Hunter Street, adjacent to Storyhouse and the market, as well as loading bays.
Q. Can the existing gradient on Princess Street be maintained for people who may not want to use the new steps and lift?
The footpath along Princess Street, next to the current Market, will be maintained as part of the phase 1 works alongside the creation of the new steps and lift at the bottom of Princess Street to give people the choice of how they navigate Princess Street.
Q. The design should be in keeping with Chester
The form and function (size, shape and use) of the buildings is set by the existing planning approval apart from the car park.
The modern design will complement and echo the character of the city.
The proposed building materials have been carefully selected following feedback received from the ‘material boards’ which formed part of our consultation on the project. This has influenced the look and feel of the buildings including:
- The introduction of green walls which will enhance the relationship of the city to the Cheshire countryside. The greenery will help soften the urban landscape and provide a healthier environment.
- Use of timber, bricks and glass give a modern interpretation of traditional materials. For example, the terracotta façade of the old library building will complemented by a modern version of the material for the new build.
We have sought expert advice from Historic England on use of materials and we’ve worked with them continuously on developing the proposals. They have welcomed the design approach.
Q. Can the design of the arcade be reconsidered?
As a result of feedback, changes have been made to the proposed materials to create a more attractive environment. York stone paving will be provided in the arcade and a mirrored ceiling will increase the sense of height within the space.
The design team have also considered a more fundamental change to the layout of the first floor which looks to maximise the visual height of the arcade. This is being considered by the proposed tenant for that space.
Q. Can the design of the entrance to the cinema be considered further?
Listening to feedback, we have considered the design of the cinema/market entrance.
The prominence of the cinema entrance has been enhanced to provide a distinct character from the remainder of the market building, allowing the feature cinema staircase that rises up from ground level to level 2 to be viewed from the square. There will be a terraced area above the entrance.
Q. Has the cinema been designed for additional uses or to be easily adapted to accommodate possible changes in future demands?
The building has been designed for cinema use. This could be adapted for future leisure uses if required.
Q. The high buildings proposed will create a canyon and air quality will be affected particularly around the car park.
The Market Car Park will be replaced by the multi-storey car park so there won’t be a significant overall increase in traffic.
Air quality is a really important consideration for us and the planning application will include a further assessment, specifically on the canyon effect.
In addition, the Northgate development will implement a travel plan seeking to promote sustainable travel modes and other measures such as electric vehicle charging points
Q. The development should include lots of public realm planting
We are trying to introduce as much green within the development as possible. However, there are constraints imposed on us due to the significant archaeology across the site.
As well as the green walls, landscaping is proposed within the public realm where possible which will enhance the environment.
The green living wall has been a popular addition. The selection of plant species is critical and this will be carefully managed and maintained throughout its lifetime to ensure that it remains an attractive feature and provide a healthier environment.
Q. Is there need for a public square?
We have received significant support for a public square, with individuals and groups interested in using it for activities.
The new public square will form a focal point, linking the different elements, and will secure Storyhouse’s position in the heart of the development.
It will also host a number of events associated with the market and will become a significant new public space for Chester.
The design of the new square has been developed to incorporate a clear ‘event space’ at its heart with associated seating and planting to soften the space.
Q. Can the focus of the market be on small independent retailers and eatery outlets to ensure that it is unique and interesting?
Yes, we are exploring opportunities for Chester’s independent retailers. We understand that many small and independent traders cannot sign-up to leases two years in advance.
The distinctive and attractive design of the market building includes space for start-ups, independent retailers and eatery outlets as well as the more traditional market stalls.
Q. The car park is too high and domineering. Can it be set back from St Martin’s way and include trees?
The car park has been designed to work with the overall look and feel of the new development. Following feedback:
- The green wall has been redesigned, removing ‘swirls’ to provide a more ordered response. Historic England has welcomed the use of a random arrangement of panels, including living green wall panels, to reduce the visual scale of the building.
- We’ve made the height of the multi-storey car park lower than the previously proposed hotel (no longer included) which the car park will replace. To achieve this lower height line, the building has had to remain in its originally approved position.
The quality of the car park and user experience will exceed standards in terms of appearance, safety, security and access.
The building is designed to be flexible so it can be adapted to changing needs such as increasing use of electric vehicles.
Q. How does the car park relate to: Proposals for later phases and possibility for underground parking. Transport and movement for the city as a whole including the hopper bus service. Existing cycle and pedestrian movement
The new multi-storey car park will be accessed to and from Hunter Street and will not be affected by future proposals.
The St. Martin’s Way/Princess Street junction will be retained with access to the hotel, Trinity Street Car Park and existing properties until an alternative route (i.e. Edwards Street) is provided in subsequent phases.
The new car park will be in line with the level of parking that was to be provided within the full scheme, across the whole of the site. As such, parking in Phase 2 is expected to be limited. However, car parking (both above and below ground) will be assessed for future phases in line with the overall car parking provision in Chester Northgate.
Parking provision has been considered as part of the city wide parking strategy to meet travel demand.
The Shopper Hopper will continue to run until August 2019 when the service will be reviewed.
Cycle and pedestrians
The new multi-storey car park does not affect access for pedestrians or cyclists. Crossings will continue to be provided on St. Martin’s Way. New highways will include footpaths.
The retention of Princess Street in this phase of the development and the crossing on St. Martin’s Way will allow cyclists to access the city centre through a quiet network of streets around Trinity Street and Hamilton Place.
Q. How is car parking for the development as a whole affected by the retention of the Crowne Plaza and the existing car parks?
The removal of the proposed new hotel from the original plan, has allowed new improved parking in a multi-storey car park. This will replace spaces currently located at Market Car Park. Motorists will be directed to the new car park from St. Martin’s Way.
The proposed car park will service any future development within the Northgate area. However, car parking (both above and below ground) will be assessed for future phases in line with the overall car parking provision in Chester Northgate.
Q. Could the multi-storey car park include underground car parking?
The existing permissions do not allow for underground car parking to be provided as it would destroy the archaeological remains. Where possible, we have taken advantage of existing levels and worked within the gradient of the site without affecting the existing archaeology.
Q. How are views from the upper floors or roof of the multi-storey car park to be exploited?
We recognise that on a clear day, the views from the top deck of the car park to the Welsh Hills will be good.
Whilst there are currently no plans for a permanent restaurant on the upper floors of this building, the Northgate Development is designed to be a flexible public space and, wherever possible, we will always try to facilitate new ideas and innovations from the community – including pop ups and installations that make Chester an interesting place for residents to enjoy and people to visit.
Q. The cycle storage would be better in a different location
The location of the Cycle Hub is currently being reconsidered based on the feedback during the pubic consultation. Cycle storage is likely to be designed within the public realm. There will be provision for up to 50 bicycles in phase 1.
Q. Will the development be sustainable?
We are designing and building a Northgate fit for the future and adaptable to future needs. Sustainability has been at the heart of the planning and design process within phases zero and 1. The scheme will include cycle parking and electric vehicle charging facilities and make use of sustainable materials. The site will be easily accessed by public transport. The green walls with provide a ‘green lung’ in the city.