Cheshire West & Chester Council has confirmed the appointment of AHR as its lead architect for the £60m first phase of Chester Northgate, while landscape architect Planit-IE, planner GVA How, and civil engineer Curtins have also joined the consultant team.
The local authority started the search for a new architect for the scheme last year after replacing previous designer ACME, and AHR was tipped by Place North West to take over in early December.
This move followed CWAC’s decision to submit a fresh planning application for the scheme’s first phase following a rethink, which has seen previous plans to build a new hotel dropped in favour of a multi-storey car park, while residential is also set to be added to the project.
CWAC has now confirmed the appointment of AHR, along with Curtins, GVA How, and Planit-IE. Other consultants have been retained from the project’s previous iteration; these include development manager Rivington Land; client-side project manager Fraser Blair Associates; construction project manager Gardiner & Theobald; cost consultant Aecom; M&E consultant Hoare Lea; highways engineer Vectos; market advisor WMC; and car park advisors Town Centre Parking.
The £60m first phase, which has Vinci attached as main contractor, is set to feature a new market, cinema, car parking facilities, and leisure. The tenants already signed up are Zizzi’s, Cosy Club, Tapas Revolution, and cinema operator Picturehouse.
Having signed off the appointment of the additional consultants, the next stage will be to develop and refine the scheme’s designs, with a public consultation likely to be held next month, according to the council’s chief executive Andrew Lewis.
Under the council’s timeline, ground works are set to begin next autumn, with construction starting in early 2020. The new market will have to complete before the existing market can be demolished.
In late October last year, the council signed off an additional £6m to deliver a revised planning application for this first phase. The funding will also go towards further feasibility studies, tenant negotiations, and enabling works.
Figures seen by Place show professional fees have stacked up to more than £12m, not including the £6m spend approved by the council in October. This includes consultants’ fees, archeology and site investigation, along with letting agents’ fees and PR costs.
According to Freedom of Information requests by Place, fees paid include £1.6m to Rivington Land; £308,000 to Fraser Blair; and nearly £1m in fees paid to a consultant team of Aecom, GVA, Strutt & Parker, and Gardiner & Theobald since 2016. Acme was paid £2.1m since its appointment in 2014, while consultant Chris Morland, who advised on the council’s CPO process for Northgate, was paid more than £611,000.
Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure said: “The Northgate scheme has been a long time coming but we are clearer than ever on what we want to see in this part of the city.
“The fact this multi-million-pound project is being led by the Council is proof that we are serious about investing in the future of the city, building on the phenomenal success of Storyhouse.”