Chester Northgate – plans submitted for a leisure and cultural destination in the heart of Chester

An important milestone in delivering Chester Northgate has been reached. The detailed designs for the initial phase including a new indoor market, six-screen Picturehouse cinema, public square and car park have been submitted by Cheshire West and Chester Council for planning approval.

The submission is likely to be considered by the planning committee in September 2019. If planning approval is granted, works on the essential services to support the development will start on site during October.

Building on the success of Storyhouse, the city centre development will add to Chester’s unique offering by providing an exciting destination by day and night. There’ll be something for everyone including a transformed, modern indoor market housing local traders and start-ups and a choice of leisure and cultural experiences. A new square will provide a focal point for socialising and entertainment.

The detail of the design has been developed following consultation with residents, businesses and local groups as well as Historic England, archaeology and conservation advisers. The Council has also worked extensively with the Corporate Disability Access Forum (CDAF).

Outline planning has already been secured for the development and planning approval is now being sought for the inclusion of a multi-storey car park which replaces previous plans to move the hotel to this site and the council is talking to the hotel owners about their plans for the hotel.

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth said: “Northgate is about creating a new public space for people to come together and socialise, it’s about supporting the businesses that drive our local economy, and it’s about building on the heritage and cultural offer that people in our city are so proud to share.

“I’d like to thank everyone who gave us their views on the project. It’s been fantastic to hear the passion people have for Chester and their clear interest in its future regeneration. I hope we can all keep working together to make our city an even better place to live, work and visit.”

Councillor Stuart Parker, Shadow Cabinet Member, Communities and Wellbeing said: “The people of Chester will enjoy a greater choice of leisure facilities by day and night including a fantastic modern market and spaces to socialise. It will complement and enhance all that Chester has to offer.

“This is the largest regeneration project being delivered by the Council in decades and is expected to bring significant benefits for the city of Chester. As well as employment opportunities, it will attract investment and support economic growth as part of a joined-up plan for the city.”

As part of an extensive consultation about its plans for the development, the Council considered over 800 comments. The strongest themes from the consultation were:

  • A green and sustainable development
  • Accessibility for everyone
  • High quality public realm
  • New buildings to fit with the character of Chester
  • Space for independent retailers
  • The size and appearance of the car park

In response to these themes, the designs will incorporate the following:

Greenery – As much greenery as possible is being introduced within the development. As well as green living walls, landscaping is proposed within the public realm.

Sustainability – Sustainability has been at the heart of the design process.  The scheme will include cycle parking and electric vehicle charging facilities. The site will be easily accessed by existing public transport. Use of sustainable materials and the green walls will provide a healthier environment.

Access – A key priority is to ensure that access to and movement across the site works for everyone. As much as possible has been done 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.

Following feedback and consultation with Corporate Disability Access Forum (CDAF), larger than standard lifts have been included in the car park to better accommodate wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. Some of the disabled parking spaces will be above standard size for ease of getting in and out of vehicles as well as space for movement around the vehicle.

Quality of environment – The modern design will complement and echo the character of the city. The proposed building materials have been carefully selected following feedback using ‘material boards’ as part of the consultation which has influenced the look and feel of the buildings.

The introduction of green walls will enhance the relationship of the city to the Cheshire countryside. The greenery will help soften urban landscape and provide a healthier environment. Use of timber bricks and glass give a modern interpretation of traditional materials.

Expert advice has been sought  from Historic England on use of materials with their continuous input in developing the proposals.

Space for independent retailers – The Council has been keen to explore opportunities for Chester’s independent retailers. The distinctive and attractive design of market building includes space for start-ups, independent retailers and eatery outlets as well as market stalls.

Car park – 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 uniformed appearance.  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.

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 the increasing use of electric vehicles.