The meandering saga of the £70m mixed-use project has taken another turn with Cheshire West & Chester Council’s cabinet asked to agree to a “revised financing arrangement” in light of the pandemic.
The cabinet is also reviewing other town centre regeneration projects, including in Winsford, which will seek a revised funding package from the Government’s High Street Fund, as well as in Ellesmere Port and Northwich.
Details of the cabinet meeting, which is due to take place next week, are confidential but a spokesperson for the council said discussions over Northgate were “not about the viability of the project going forward”.
Discussions are expected to centre around what Covid-19 could mean with regards to a number of issues including construction contracts and maintaining the safety of the site.
The spokesperson added that preparatory work, being carried out by Vinci, was ongoing and had not stopped as a result of the ongoing health crisis.
The cost of the project was initially anticipated to be £60m but a revised estimate saw that increase by just under £10m, with the council saying it would need to divert funds from elsewhere within the budget to fund the development.
The regeneration of Chester city centre has been more than two decades in the making with numerous iterations of various schemes.
A hybrid planning permission for the current proposal was secured back in 2016 but the project has undergone a series of amendments over the last four years. This followed a change in architect and pressure from local businesses who demanded that the council rethink the proposals.
The group said the council’s original plan of relocating the existing Crowne Plaza hotel to the site would be akin to “burning money” and the move was subsequently dropped.
The switch from ACME to AHR as architect came in December 2018. Approval for tweaked plans, including a 788-space car park believed to be the cause of the £10m increase in costs, came last September.
Northgate is set to feature a new market, cinema, a multi-storey car park. The tenants already signed up are Zizzi’s, Cosy Club, Tapas Revolution, and cinema operator Picturehouse.
Vinci is the main contractor and the project team also includes Planit-IE; Curtins; Avison Young; Hoare Lea; Rivington Land; Gardiner & Theobald; Aecom; Vectos; WMC; Town Centre Parking; and Fraser Blair Associates.