Cheshire West & Chester Council is to adopt a masterplan for Ellesmere Port’s town centre to usher in private investment as well as putting council funding towards a new public service hub and bus station.
Supported by Allies & Morrison, Colliers, and Mott MacDonald, the council has drawn up a 15-year strategy for the town centre focussed on improving access, diversifying its cultural and leisure offering, and reducing the proportion of retail.
Among the early interventions proposed by the council is a public service hub, set to include a customer service centre, housing, and council offices.
This is to be built on the existing bus station, owned by the local authority and next to the Mercer Walk entrance of the Port Arcades shopping centre. The existing offices at Civic Way will also be demolished, while buses will be relocated to a new interchange along the same road.
This has a capital cost of around £16m and will be supported by £7m in funding from the Cheshire and Warrington LEP.
A second phase will include accommodating two GP surgeries and community health services in the vacant 22,000 sq ft TJ Hughes unit at 2-4 Mercer Walk; this option is currently being explored by the NHS.
The Civic Centre site is to be redeveloped as a mixed-use, housing-led development, featuring a mix of housing types including affordable homes. A development brief is to be prepared for this site and brought to market, with CWAC expecting any development to “promote excellence in design, public realm and green space”.
There is also the potential for a family pub or restaurant fronting Whitby Road and Stanney Lane.
At Coronation Road, which currently houses many of the tenants who will move into the public service hub once it completes, the council is proposing to focus on housing, with a mix of types and tenures to be brought forward. CWAC added due to the “incremental nature” of development in this area, it should be brought forward by a registered provider, or as build-to-rent. In total, these future phases of the town centre regeneration could include around 600 homes.
Land ownership is mixed around this area, with 14 plots identified for redevelopment and 11 of these in public ownership.
The former B&M Bargains site, described as a “blight on the town centre”, is also identified for redevelopment and is set to be demolished, although the council warned it “may be difficult to deliver viable commercial development in the short term”. Redevelopment of this site could include food and drink uses.
CWAC is set to sign off the masterplan at a meeting next Wednesday, after holding a series of consultation events in November last year. These found most members of the public in favour of diversifying the town’s offering to reduce retail and improve cultural and leisure facilities, but reactions to adding new homes to the town centre were mixed, with 49% in favour and 34% against.
Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure said: “Thank you to all of the people taking time to view the plans and complete the questionnaire. These opinions have supported the masterplan being presented to cabinet.
“Significant progress has been made improving the town’s education and sports facilities and delivering major housing developments. We have invested in foot and cycleway improvements in the town to link key destinations and further investment will soon happen on the A5117, Canal Corridor and Sutton Way.
“The investment in the town centre will enable the ongoing regeneration of Ellesmere Port through a structured and locally supported plan that underpins future development and investment decisions.”