Just don’t call it Northgate-gate
The path of Northgate, Chester’s long in the tooth retail and leisure scheme, has never run smooth, and it certainly hit a big rut this month. Guy Butler of Glenbrook and Tim Kenney of Kenneymoore – not your usual rabble rousers – issued an open letter asking Cheshire West & Chester Council to call time on the project they believe has become unviable and wasteful. With retailers and restaurant groups continuing to seek frantic bail-outs elsewhere, they may have a point. The letter has garnered 120 signatures from senior property figures, which feels like a thumping majority of big hitters with skin in the Chester game. Andrew Lewis, who takes over as chief executive at CWAC later this summer, may receive property’s equivalent of a ‘hospital ball’ in the first minute of the game.
Hit the north
Liverpool City Council, possibly not before time, has noticed that its traditional office core has a rapidly diminishing supply of actual offices, and has introduced a regeneration framework that will essentially clear the way for a northward expansion. There’s almost no grade A space left in the city, and developers clearly see more value in turning the heritage buildings around Water Street into flats, so this looks like good sense all round. A 40-acre patch has been mapped out, and we might even see some interesting new build come forward, with architects faced with the challenge of linking the site with Liverpool Waters, now things are taking shape there.
Take me home
Andy Burnham’s not happy. The Greater Manchester Mayor has called for an investigation into the terminally unpopular Northern Rail. There’s no getting away from the fact that the new timetable launch has been an almighty cock up nationally, and those largescale battles remain hard to win. Within Burnham’s GM bailiwick, are things much better? The Get Me There smartcard, launched 14 years after the Oystercard, looked like TfGM – sorry – missing the bus, and Metrolink’s proposal for zonal charging is getting a lukewarm reception. The graphic, if anything, highlights how patchy coverage is. Good job there’s a top-notch heavy rail system covering the rest, right?
There’s always a sharp intake of breath when a retailer pulls the plug on its commitment to a project that’s still on the drawing board, and intended anchor store Ikea at Cuerden, south of Preston, is the latest, following M&S in Oldham and, in all likelihood, M&S in Rochdale. Preliminary works at the site have already doubled in cost, so it’s a headache Lancashire County Council, Eric Wright and Brookhouse could have done without. It’s a £430m scheme, where the volume of offices at 387,000 sq ft looks as ambitious as the 757,000 sq ft of retail. Is anyone prepared to bet against logistics – currently taking up 861,000 sq ft – coming to dominate a bit more?
Exercise your right…
May’s council elections brought few surprises, with the big story being in Trafford, where Greater Manchester’s only blue spot was wiped out by Labour. Incoming leader Andrew Western has wasted no time in hoofing UA92’s controversial Turn Moss plans into touch, also reaffirming the “Flixton green belt must not be touched” line, seemingly a hill many are prepared to die on. A surprise of sorts came in Stockport, where the Lib Dems failed to regain control. This outcome could, it was said, have thrown some recent calls such as the Produce Hall market scheme into doubt.
Staying in Stockport, the plans for a new transport interchange look a bit fancy. OK, it doesn’t solve the problem of the journey twixt bus and railway stations being down a steep and forbidding hill, but the council have been promising this for three years, so let’s run with it. Block of 196 apartments, green roof – OK, but maybe don’t speak to whoever turfs Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, and keep the A6 noise in mind. Really, this can hardly be worse than what’s there. Getting Metrolink in might be what makes it work – and indeed, would mean the project actually meets the definition of “interchange”.