Chester Northgate Artists Impression 1
A CGI of the new market

CWAC racks up nearly £1m in fees on Northgate

Charlie Schouten

Cheshire West & Chester Council has spent nearly £1m on fees since late 2016 on the mixed-use Northgate project, with some professional services companies racking up six-figure sums in less than a year, a freedom of information request by Place North West has revealed.

The £300m Northgate project, due to include 45 shops, 12 restaurants, 120 apartments, 1,000 car parking spaces, offices, and a hotel, secured planning consent in September 2016 after a decade of wrangling, but work has yet to start after the scheme was hit with a series of setbacks, including House of Fraser pulling out of the development earlier this month. The retailer had signed up for a 100,000 sq ft store.

A professional team including quantity surveyor Aecom, land assembly advisor GVA, funding adviser Strutt & Parker, and project manager Gardiner & Theobald has been working on the scheme, and a freedom of information request has revealed the four consultants have been paid around £900,000 between them.

Aecom has been the biggest beneficiary, having been paid £332,000 between its appointment in June 2017 and the beginning of May 2018. Similarly, project manager Gardiner & Theobald has been paid £278,192 over the same period.

Land assembly advisor GVA, which has been working with the council since November 2016, has also earned £204,607 as of the start of May this year, while Strutt & Parker has earned £70,252 since its appointment in August 2016.

The council also launched a procurement process to find a contractor to build the development, but CWAC said the cost of this process “relates to internal staffing costs, plus the cost of the above professional advisors, and is currently ongoing”.

Sources close to the project suggested the overall fees for the professional team, which also includes architect Acme and Rivington Land, would be “significantly higher” than the £1m spent to date. Despite spades not yet hitting the ground, the council said earlier this year it was aiming to complete the project’s first phase in 2020 with the second phase completing in 2022, although a funder is not yet in place.

Following House of Fraser’s decision to pull out of the development, a team led by Tim Kenney of property consultants Kenneymoore and Guy Butler of developer Glenbrook, has written to the council’s leader Samantha Dixon and deputy chief executive Charles Seward to request a meeting to outline a vision for the scheme.

A previous letter penned by Kenney and Butler calling for the council to stop work on the project attracted more than 120 signatures from property professionals and local businesses, and was sent to the council in May.

However, responding last month’s letter, Cheshire West & Chester said the city “needs to improve its retail offer” and added: “We believe this because it is what retailers and our advisors tell us”. The council said it would be willing to meeting with Kenney and Butler to discuss the project.

In a draft agenda for the proposed meeting, which does not yet have a set date, includes discussions over a vision for the centre of Chester, while Kenney and Butler have argued the council should “stop wasting further public money on an unviable and undeliverable scheme” and “pause all further land acquisition”.

The agenda also argues the council to consider a review of the existing development strategy for Northgate including “the quality of advice from [the council’s] existing advisors, agents, and development managers” and “the skillsets of the council to deliver this scheme”.

Alternative options for the development put forward by Kenney and Butler include the possible retention of the Crowne Plaza and buildings on Hamilton Place; the deliver of “the best new market hall in the UK”, and a wholesale review of the site looking at “creating a cohesive quality urban environment fit for the next century”.

The market, cinema, and public square element of the project should be delivered “as soon as possible,” argued Kenney and Butler, who added: “There are more than enough local specialist skills to support the project with knowledge, passion, vision, and experience to deliver proven world-class inner-city projects”.

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…and? What’s the story here; that consultants get appointed and then get paid?

By Scarborough

These sort of schemes involve a truckload of money to promote … but perhaps the decision to chance the public purse on the never never is shortsighted … it won’t be the first or last time it happens, but maybe it will make them think what sort of value has been generated thus far and perhaps who they get to advise them … can’t believe the appointed agents can be local to risk ruining their reputation on chasing pre-packs !

By moneybags

Wouldn’t it be nice to see private developers reveal the cost of THEIR consultants. You could ask them. In the meantime, why not lay off Chester Council?

By Peter Black

Seem to be getting paid a lot of money for a failing project – which they would appear to be responsible for.

By Old hack

Cheaper than if the development was in the private sector – Council’s get a better level of service (because they need hand holding) at half of the price! Surveyors always seen as the good/cheap Samaritans vs lawyers and accountants…

By The Old Faithful

The ‘story’ here isn’t so much about public vs private purses, but that the scheme as proposed in the current market is commonly seen as being totally unrealistic and probably unlivable. Many are critical that the same council decided to ignore the advice of at least some of its own professional team when taking the decision to build out Barons Quay in Northwich. No commercially driven developer would commence a scheme of such magnitude without a majority of pre-lets. It is accepted by the market that BQ is an abject failure and a number of respected professionals in the NW have grouped together and have tried to help the council to avoid making a lasting mistake in Chester. Lets hope they listen.

By Tronold Dump

This upgrading of Northgate has been in the pipeline for a number of years and it has not got any near getting done when CWAC when thay did st George st nobody looked at the problem with the fountains round about at
Morning/Evening time so you now have
A Bottle nick at this point

By B.jones

Another white Elephant just like barons Quay I rue the day I voted for a Labour Council never again

By Patricia Youd