Cheshire West and Chester Council has reaffirmed its commitment to Chester Northgate as a critical part of economic recovery following the Covid pandemic.
As we enter a challenging time with big implications for the city and the borough, investment will be critical in sustaining the economy and creating the conditions for long-term prosperity. Councillors yesterday (Wednesday 13 May) agreed to proceed with the project, which will now begin later this month.
Working with contractor Vinci Construction, the first phase the £70m development will become a catalyst for future economic and tourism growth in the borough.
Part of Chester’s One City Plan, Chester Northgate is a new cultural and leisure destination at the heart of the city, which includes:
- a new market
- a six screen Picturehouse cinema
- cafes, bars and restaurants
- co-working space
- multi-storey car park
- a new public square.
Despite the current challenges, agreement has been reached which will allow the project to progress, whilst managing risks and following government guidance on social distancing and construction site working.
Work on the main construction phase is expected to start later in May, including the building of a new city centre drainage tunnel. The scheme is currently expected to open in early 2022, subject to any potential delays as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Cllr Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth, said: “Northgate is not just a city centre construction project. It includes major civil engineering works that are vital for the future of Chester – particularly unlocking the potential for new city centre housing, which in turn will support our high street businesses.
“Many of the sub-contractors were intentionally sourced from the local area to support our local economy, so now more than ever this Council needs to play its part in protecting jobs and supporting businesses in our region.
“It is understandable that people will have differing opinions on the continuation of this project in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and I want to offer assurances that these views have been carefully considered. However Chester’s Northgate development is about building on the investment in Storyhouse to create a new community space in our city, which will be ready for a day when this current crisis is over and it becomes a major catalyst for the social, cultural and economic recovery of the city and our wider borough.”
The Chester Northgate scheme is overseen by a Joint Member Working Group established on a cross-party basis. After reviewing the impact of the economic situation on the scheme’s finances, the Council’s Cabinet agreed to give the green light to the construction phase. This follows endorsement by Councillors in November 2019.
The Council’s Chief Executive was able to confirm their continued support, under urgency procedures set out in the council’s constitution and following consultations with the Leaders of the two main party groups.
Cllr Stuart Parker, Conservative group committee member of the Northgate Members Working Group, said: “The Chester Northgate project has cross-party support and I am pleased to see all steps possible being taken to ensure work can continue towards achieving our shared objectives for the regeneration of Chester city centre.”
Garry Bowker, Regional Director for the Northwest of VINCI Construction UK Limited said: “We share the council’s bold ambitions for the Northgate development; we are working tirelessly with our staff, contractors and suppliers to do all we can to keep the project on track and keep everyone safe throughout these challenging times.”
As part of the decision taken yesterday the Council will set up a City and Town Centre Member Working Group, to coordinate the approach to all town centre regeneration plans, including the financial aspects. A financial resilience plan for Chester Northgate will also be developed, to ensure the scheme’s financial commitments and targets can be met.
Chair of the Chester Growth Partnership, Peter Carstensen, said: “Chester Northgate is a key element of the One City Plan for the city and we fully support the Council’s efforts to deliver vital investment that will benefit Chester and the wider region.”