Chester Northgate Phase 1 February 2019
An updated masterplan with phase one highlighted in grey, showing the new multi-storey car park

Chester Northgate consultation gets under way

Charlie Schouten

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.

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So basically we can ‘help shape’ the decisions on the colour of the paint and whether net curtains or blinds, but not that the Market is squeezed in at the back between the car parking and bins, in an L shape, behind large food and beverage multiples and the Market Square isn’t square or much use for a large screen TV or performances. The 8 or so storey car park is behind that and Picturehouse on top of the market, taking the light away from the market.

See https://chesternorthgate.com/ which is at least updated now.

I’ve highlighted several issues between Storyhouse and Picturehouse and questioned why they are STILL hiding the market away as happened with the Forum development back in the 1970s. I’ve asked them to consider moving Picturehouse to preserve light for their ‘world-class ambition’ market and make the market more ‘centre stage’.

The Christmas market and re-energised market hall here in Chester have shown how small, independent retailers can rejuvenate high streets (Altrincham anyone?) and make a difference to City Centre retail. Why are we hiding this great opportunity for Chester away? Again?

I’m not alone on this. see @NorthgateRemas1

By JaneHR

I would rather shop in Liverpool.. Chester is Boring and has little Atmosphere

By John

I agree that it is a shame to hide the very successful Storyhouse Theatre with a new building. One of the few projects that the City Council have been involved with over the last many years that is working. The proposed building on the front of the Market adjacent to Hunter Street should be scrapped to allow the market square to have, as one side, the flank wall of the theatre. This wall of the theatre could then be used to accommodate a large screen for big occasions, royal weddings, funerals, coronations, football cup finals, whatever. The square can be used, also, for occasional markets and Christmas markets as well as a potentially attractive open space. The market itself should have fully glazed sides giving, itself, the impression of being an open air market. i am not sure about following the Altrincham example other than the mixed food and eat in part of the enterprise. This could be part of a much larger food orientated space with stalls offering a variety of foods, drinks and associated items. The bric a bac stalls could be accommodated elsewhere. The sale of bric a bac does not, in my humble opinion, sit with what should be a quality food offer. The bric a bac stalls can be set up in a less expensive area of the city centre. There should be a hard surface within the market to allow pop-up-food vans, of which there are now a growing number, to ply their trade.

I also agree that, ideally, the market should stand alone rather than having a cinema on top. It does not actually need natural light coming in as long as there is side light from large flank walls and very clever low lights over the stalls. Good quality materials must be used throughout.
It is to be hoped that the next phase recognises the need to accommodate a large element of residential accommodation. A wonderful opportunity to bring back living into the city centre and give additional support to the market and theatre.

By Nigel Bruce

never ever have i seen such a slow and bad council /is it a job for the boys the longer you mess about

By barry littler

Interesting reading from JaneHR and Nigel Bruce. If the markets and cinema are built as they stand, I fear that the street between this and the Storyhouse (great development) could become lifeless. I would also like to suggest, along with tree planting, a heavily planted pathway within the residential element between the Northgate Rows and the markets area.

By SW

I fully endorse the sensible comments made by Nigel Bruce as an experienced and long established Chartered Surveyor with an in depth knowledge of the City likewise the comments made by Mr Kenney at the Black and White event at Storeyhouse on 18th January in particular reference made at that forum by countless contributors to the woeful waste of public money expended to date which could have been better utilised through engaging fully with property professionals, retailers and the general public from the outset.

As for the next phase (phase 2) a complete re-think is needed along the lines of residential development and vibrant open green spaces to bring life back into this part of the city particularly at night with clearly defined and enhanced links into Watergate Street which has become a tired retail street at its lower end and likely to deteriorate further without thought to incorporate same into any future phase of development. Consideration to refurbish or demolish Hamilton House for residential purpose is worth pursuing provided an alternative more suitable support centre is secured for the homeless linked to an urgently needed policy to support those dozens residing in shop entrances throughout the city centre which reflects badly in promoting Chester as a tourist and retail destination.

Focusing on the revised scheme in isolation is unwise in light of the demise of Foregate Street and to an extent Eastgate as once prime retail areas but now a sad reflection of their former glory.

By Jonathan Williams

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