Cheshire West & Chester Council has agreed to put a further £4m towards the development of the mixed-use Northgate in the city centre, adding to the £70m construction spend already revised upwards by £10m.
At a cabinet meeting this week, the council approved an additional £5m would go to ongoing projects which have been impacted by Covid-19. Of this, £4m was for Northgate.
The report to the cabinet said the money would be found be reallocating money which would have been used for private sector housing, making other services more efficient, and bidding for funding from external sources.
The council argued the money would come from areas which were already ripe for reorganisation due to decreased demand.
The report said: “The 2020-24 capital programme has been reviewed to identify flexibilities as a result of slippage in the programme caused by Covid-19, and to identify where there is flexibility around uncommitted allocations. The review has identified an initial £5m of funding available to be reallocated.”
This is the latest in a series of funding discussions around Northgate. In May, Cheshire West & Chester Council’s cabinet was asked to agree to a “revised financing arrangement” in light of the pandemic.
The details of the cabinet meeting were confidential but a spokesperson at the time said discussions over Northgate were “not about the viability of the project going forward”.
The cost of the project was initially anticipated to be £60m but a revised estimate last year saw that increase by just under £10m, with the council already reallocating money from elsewhere in its budget.
Preparatory work at Northgate is being carried out by Vinci, and work carried on during coronavirus lockdown.
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 the council rethink the proposals, including the relocation of a hotel which has since been shelved.
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. The challenges facing the leisure industry in he wake of lockdown has also led to concerns around Northgate’s tenant mix; last week Zizzi’s owner Azzurri Group announced the company was approaching prospective buyers to take over part or all of the business.
Vinci is the main contractor at Northgate, and AHR is architect. The wider 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.