Plans to build on Chester’s reputation as a prime leisure and culture destination have been revealed by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Following the recent news that the Council had been successful in securing the ministerial permissions needed to progress its Chester Northgate scheme, the vision for the next 12 months will now go before Cabinet and Council for approval in the coming weeks.
The £60 million Phase 1 plans of the exciting mixed use development, which will include a new relocated dynamic and modern market, six-screen cinema, restaurants, a public square and car parking, would see work begin by the end of next year.
Work to design future phases of the scheme to reflect recent fundamental changes in retail, and increase the importance of good quality housing, leisure and cultural attractions within the site will continue.
Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure, Councillor Brian Clarke, said: “We have a clear vision for Chester Northgate that will support a lively leisure and culture offer in the city, as outlined in the One City Plan. It will support local retailers and Storyhouse and also provide much needed jobs, car parking, housing and office space in the heart of Chester.
“Our aim is to deliver a mixed use scheme that’s ready for the next generation, rather than having to build something that’s a legacy of the last 10 years’ thinking. Doing nothing is not an option for us.
“Northgate should not be seen in isolation. Its impact on Chester will be to support the whole of the city centre by improving our offer and encouraging more visitors.”
The report to Cabinet and Council details a number of factors surrounding the project including bringing forward Phase 1 plans, securing the necessary budget to break ground, implementing a robust process for releasing funding against milestones achieved and recognising risks and their financial impact.
It acknowledges the need to consider the options regarding relocating the existing hotel following the withdrawal of House of Fraser from the scheme and that much needed parking should be considered as part of the process.
The next year will be spent completing feasibility studies, appointing a preferred contractor, continuing tenant negotiations, submitting plans to planning and beginning construction enabling works.
It recognises that the £60 million Phase 1, which will bring significant regeneration and jobs to the area and pave the way for successful future phases.
Cllr Clarke added: “As a local authority we have the advantage that our development plans are driven by achieving long term benefits for residents, businesses and visitors.
“With any project of this size there is always a certain amount of risk against an ever changing economic backdrop but that’s why we are open and transparent about these risks and our work to mitigate them.
“In this report an additional £6 million is being requested to bring us to a point where we can break ground on Phase 1. Funding will only be released following the agreement of the Council’s cross-party working group. The capital will be released in portions after key milestones have been met to limit the risk to the public purse.
“There will be significant consultation in the months to come which will allow the community and stakeholders the opportunity to shape the future of this part of the city.”
Chester Northgate is part of the One City Plan that guides development across the city and last year saw the completion of the successful Storyhouse project incorporating a new 900 seat theatre, arthouse cinema, public library and new restaurant. Since its opening this high-quality cultural centre has smashed its first year targets and welcomed over one million visitors.
Shadow Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, Councillor Stuart Parker, said: “Phase 1 of Chester Northgate will create 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.
“Relocating Chester Market will be at the heart of the first phase, with ambitious plans to become one of the best markets in the country. It has been transformed over the past year, it has returned to full capacity, welcoming half a million visitors this year and there is now a waiting list for traders.
“If this momentum is to continue then it’s essential that the city responds to the dynamic changes that city’s like Chester are exposed to. Chester Northgate is the largest project the city has seen in decades and aims to secure its position in the country for years to come.”
Chester is already at the top of the list as a must see destination for visitors. A recent YouGov poll identified Chester as one of the top four places in the country people most want to visit – reflected in the 12.6 million visitors flocking to the city last year.
Tourism in the Cheshire West and Chester Council area is booming, with 35 million visitors last year, and for the first time, the visitor economy exceeded £2 billion employing nearly 25,000 people.