CWAC boss promises ‘debate’ over Northgate designs

Cheshire West & Chester chief executive Andrew Lewis has promised the vision for the £60m first phase of Chester Northgate will not be presented “on a take-it-or-leave-it basis” once a fresh consultation on the scheme launches next month.

Lewis, who has been in post for around five months after joining from the Tees Valley Combined Authority, said there was “the need for debate” over the revised plans for the opening phase of mixed-use Northgate scheme, which is due to get under way early next year.Andrew Lewis

Speaking at the University of Chester’s A Black and White Future event hosted at the Storyhouse, Lewis, pictured right, vowed the council would be “stepping up our engagement” on Northgate, with the CWAC leadership having previously been criticised by local businesses and property professionals for a perceived lack of dialogue over the scheme.

Updated designs for the mixed-use project are due to be shared by the council in mid-February, with a vacant unit in the Forum shopping centre set aside to host a series of consultation events, although the exact date of these is yet to be confirmed.

Although the scheme already has planning consent, Cheshire West & Chester is bringing forward a fresh planning application for the site following a rethink. The council signed off an additional £6m in funding to support this, and architect AHR has since been brought on board, replacing original designer ACME.

The scheme already has a number of leisure tenants signed up, including Picturehouse, which will operate a six-screen cinema.

Zizzi’s, Cosy Club, and Tapas Revoultion are also on board to occupy some of the restaurant units and Lewis said there had been “productive discussions with other restaurant occupiers”. Lewis reiterated residential would also play a part in the revised consent, with a mix of leisure, public realm, a new market, and a car park set to be brought forward.

Proposals to move the site of the neighbouring Crowne Plaza to a new-build facility have been scrapped by the council; these were heavily criticised in an open letter put forward last year and signed by 120 local businesses.

Also speaking at the event, Andy Foster of Chester-based Raise Architects criticised the previous consent for the scheme, arguing the city was “lucky that we never built it out as originally planned”.

He also echoed Lewis’ call for more public engagement on phase one: “If the next round of engagement amounts to putting a series of boards in a retail unit then we will have failed; we can’t pay lip service to public views”.

Under the council’s timeline for phase one, ground works are set to begin in the autumn with main works starting in early 2020. The new market will have to be completed before the existing market can be demolished. Vinci is on board as main contractor.

The second phase, which was originally due to host a House of Fraser megastore, has largely gone back to the drawing board since the retailer pulled out last year.

At present, CWAC is looking to refresh its professional team on the first phase, and is looking to appoint a planning consultant, drainage engineer, principal designer, structural and civil engineer, and party wall consultant. Meanwhile, other consultants have been retained by CWAC to help bring forward the next phase.

These are development manager Rivington Land; client-side project manager Fraser Blair Associates; construction project manager Gardiner & Theobald; cost consultant Aecom; M&E consultant Hoare Lea; highways engineer Vectos; market advisor WMC; and car park advisors Town Centre Parking.

According to figures seen by Place North West, professional fees on Northgate have so far stacked up to more than £12m, not including the £6m spend approved by the council in October. This includes consultants’ fees, archaeology and site investigation, along with letting agents’ fees and PR costs.

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I think Chester would do much better by becoming a part of Liverpool.

By Pool99

Pool99! Dream on.

By Chester

haha try telling that to people in Chester. Some people in Southport already think joining Merseyside is what dragged that town down.

By cy

I agree with pool99, collectively I feel Chester could work well in a wider stronger Liverpool City Region. Liverpool is a worldwide brand name that’s on the up, and Chester could benefit from the exposure. As for Southport, personally as someone who grew up in a West Lancashire town near-by, Southport has had similar issues to many seaside towns, less so than the issue being because it sits in the LCR, many of the issues it has would have occurred regardless of what region it sits in.

By LionelRichTea

When I was growing up in north Liverpool Southport was the dominant retail destination if you wanted to go anywhere half-way decent. Liverpool ONE put the kibosh on that as the wealthier shoppers of Blundellsands, Formby and Southport itself migrated to a much more exciting and varied offer in the big city – helped, of course, by the rather excellent Merseyrail metro network.

Sefton Council has yet to develop a strategy to counter this and Southport town centre remains in long-term decline. The contraction of Lord Street’s prime strip towards an ever-smaller centre either side of Wayfarers’ Arcade tells its own story…

By Sceptical

Fortunately Liverpool is a good 40 mins away by train. I think Chester would do much better by staying part of Cheshire, and maximising on tourism opportunities – what did the Romans ever do for us!

By Cestrian

@LionelRichTea. @Pool99. Chester will never be a part of a Liverpool city region. Never ever. It`s merely a Liverpool fantasy.

By Deva Victrix

It’s always debatable of course of what defines a region or it’s metropolitian area. Chester is an independent city with a proud and long history unequalled by many in the UK. But in more modern times it’s position as a County town and provider of most things for Cheshire for many a year has changed. Shopping and retail has been affected by Cheshire Oaks and Liverpool 1 and with the break up of Cheshire administrative procedures have also changed. With Chester being serviced by the Mersey Rail system and quite busy I am informed by my friends plus Radio Merseyside covering the Chester area too. So there are arguments for and against, but in the end what will determine any move by Chester into the LCR will be economic. It is already included in some of the descriptions of the metropolitian area of Liverpool as are other towns who are still independent.So le tus see the whole region flourish as this affects us all, with people and employment far more mobile than everbefore.

By Emperor of the North

Chester is a dreary city anyway surrounded by oil refineries. It is a third rate York. I would have thought that Liverpool would have been the city turning up its nose at Chester becoming part of a wider Merseyside not the other way round.

By Elephant

Why does everybody want to centralize everything? Wrong! Human-scale is best, small is beautiful, small firms not mega-corporations, communities not conglomerations, low-rise not high-rise, small market towns not metropolitan regions, towns not cities, regions not nations, onshoring not offshoring, confederations not unitary states, me not you (sorry, that was a typo).

By james yates

Chester will always be Chester. It’s inevitable that one day Liverpool will be vacuumed into, hopefully soon, so the Wirral can get out of Liverpool’s clutches.

By Heswall

Personally I think Chester is a nice place to spend a day, after that you’ve seen all there is. I wouldn’t want it to be part of the LCR. It would be similar to what the mill town down the Lancs did, grabbing towns with little connection to itself in order to artificially inflate itself.

By Liverpolitan

Chester is a lovely town, but somehow less than the sum of its parts. Not sure it needs to be part of LCR, but does need a strategy for how it fits into economic geography of the North West.

By Rich X

The absolute state of some of the comments on here. Until Capital of Culture, Liverpool was on its arse. A couple of shiny buildings later and they think they are the centre of the universe.

By CheshireBlue

@Liverpolitan@ What has Manchester got to do with this? It is jealousy, no more, no less. Do you really think Mancunians spend their day thinking about Liverpool?

By Poynton Guy

Liverpudlians feeling entitled to other peoples towns again. Free Halton.

By Halton Tes

So £12m has been spent on professional fee’s already, on the previous scheme overseen by the project management team (Rivington Land, Fraser Blair Associates). Its clear that this was miss-managed.
A new design team has been brought in, but the same project management team are retained….. hmmmm.

By Chester_P

Most of the residents in Halton particulary Runcorn are from Liverpool or decendants of Liverpool people, what I say is free them to come back and stop holding them hostage to strange language and funny food. Let our people go!

By Che Garston

Obviously, none of the participants in this discussion have read the Mersey Dee Alliance prospectus – “Our unique City region unlocking true potential”. The opening address from Cllr Derek Butler states – “The Mersey Dee is an important strategic and dynamic region. It contributes significantly to the UK economy however there is significant economic growth potential across the region. A programme of transport infrastructure investment has been identified that will help to unlock this potential and contribute to the ambitions of the Northern Powerhouse. The Mersey Dee Alliance partners and many key stakeholders, including the Mersey Dee and North Wales All Party Parliamentary Group, the North Wales and Mersey Dee All Party Assembly Members Group, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, Liverpool City Region
Local Enterprise Partnership, Higher Education and Further Education providers are working together across the
Mersey Dee region to realise the same ambition of growing our already successful and diverse economy.
This prospectus sets out the transport infrastructure investment required to unlock the economic growth
potential, in addition and complementary to the rail investment identified in the Growth Track 360 prospectus” Four local aurhorities, across national and local borders combine to form a city region. It does not include Liverpool. Adventurous thinking. It could just work and better than alternatives such as becoming part of a Liverpool City Region.

By Nigel Bruce

I lived in Chester for 15 years. It has its own economic orbit linked to Deeside/Wrexham but also of course to Ellesmere Port which is also geographically part if Merseyside. The Welsh side recognises quite strongly their links to LCR particularly through the Mersey/Dee Alliance, and Chester benefits from through ticketing via Merseyrail. The links are very strong and Chester people don’t generally see themselves as separate from the southern fringes of Merseyside. Chester and the Wirral have always been linked and any perceived split is more to do with local government than any reality on the ground. There would be great benefits to local people and the local economy to integrate the transport systems better. Cheshire West should seriously consider joining Merseytravel at least. I know many people in Chester, Ellesmere Port, Winsford and Frodsham who would really appreciate the better links this would give them.

By Roscoe

People pay a lot more to live in Chester than they do in Liverpool. That tells you all you need to know.


If Chester gets swallowed into Liverpool home owners will find themselves in negative equity. This extended Liverpool region is imaginary.

By Chester

There are basic issues of fairness involved when it comes to Liverpool and Chester. If allowed to get their own devolution deal with Warrington, they will feed remorselessly off their proximity to Liverpool and to a lesser extent Manchester, sapping vitality and wealth from both cites with their pitch of being able to access two nearby large economies and populations. We have already seen this to some extent with the Burtonwood developments on the M62 and the asset strip of Royal Liver by Royal London before moving to Cheshire.

The subject is made even more unfair for the city when you look at maps which show gargantuan borders swung around areas like Manchester and Leeds, while Liverpool City Region’s jurisdiction still awkwardly ducks and weaves around different outlying towns.

By Morgan

I am a Cestrian who now lives on the Wirral (having also lived in Didsbury, South Manchester). I think Chester would benefit from being part of the Liverpool City Region. The idea is not to diminish the city but to enhance relationships and economic activity between the two, i.e. it would be mutually beneficial.

By Chris

Find Morgan’s comment quite odd I.e. that Chester should be in LCR as issue of basic fairness. This city regions can only exist by consent, and Cheshire and Warrington have the right to their own develution deal if they feel that’s the best future for them. Are Cheshire and Warrington a bit parasitical on Liverpool and Manchester, probably, the same argument would make Surrey, Berkshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Sussex and Kent part of Greater London. Chester’s challenge is actually that the two city’s will become the go to locations for knowledge workers in the NorthWest, and it will need a strategy to maintain its employment base and not become even more of dormitory.

By Rich X

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