Cheshire West & Chester Council has invited public views on the first phase of the long-running Northgate project with a fresh planning application expected for part of the city centre site in the coming months.
The £60m first phase of the wider £200m project, which has Vinci attached as main contractor, is set to feature a new market, cinema, car parking facilities, and leisure. The tenants already signed up are Zizzi’s, Cosy Club, Tapas Revolution, and cinema operator Picturehouse.
The council’s vision for the site, which has had planning consent since 2016, has undergone some significant changes over the past 12 months, with previous plans to build a new hotel dropped in favour of a multi-storey car park, while residential is also set to be added to the project.
CWAC and its architect AHR, which replaced former architect ACME on the scheme late last year, will look to secure full planning permission for the car park, with changes to the other parts of the scheme submitted via a Section 73 planning application.
Few new designs are on show at the consultation, although there are some indicative drawings of what the car park could look like, with the council instead looking to gauge public opinion on what style of building would be welcomed.
The proposals, including a history of the long-running scheme, have been set out at a shopfront in the Forum shopping centre in Chester, which will be open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings between 9am and 12pm, and every Saturday morning from the week commencing 25 February.
Following this, the design team will work up more detailed plans for the new car park and alterations to the existing planning consent. This will also go to consultation, starting on 20 March and running to 8 April, before the planning application is submitted at the end of May.
The council has reiterated its desire to engage with the local community on the plans after previously being accused of a lack of consultation, particularly by a group of property and business professionals who backed an open letter calling for a halt to the scheme in May last year.
One of the key issues raised by this letter was the relocation of the hotel, which the council has since dropped in favour of the multi-storey car park.
Earlier this year, the council’s chief executive Andrew Lewis promised the designs for the rejigged phase one would not be presented “on a take-it-or-leave-it basis”, and said there was “a need for debate” over the shape of the project going forward.
Under CWAC’s timeline, ground works are set to begin next autumn, with construction starting in early 2020. The new market will have to complete before the existing market can be demolished.
In late October last year, the council signed off an additional £6m to deliver a revised planning application for this first phase. The funding will also go towards further feasibility studies, tenant negotiations, and enabling works.
Figures seen by Place show professional fees have 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.