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Councillors give green light to £300m Chester development scheme
Councillors have given the go ahead to the major £300m Northgate scheme designed to breathe new life into Chester’s shopping centre.
A special meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council unanimously backed the authority’s plans for the redevelopment of an iconic retail and leisure project in the historic city centre.
Members agreed to approve the procurement of a development and design team and the finance to get concept plans to the planning application stage by spring of 2015.
They had considered a report from a London-based specialist consumer and retail research company warning that in terms of cash spend per head of the population, the city had dropped from 27th out of 4,000 retail centres in 2006 to 59th in 2012.
With an expected 7.3% share of a £4,113m market, it falls into third place behind Liverpool City Centre (11.5%) and Cheshire Oaks (8%), in a catchment area of two million people.
Councillor Les Ford, executive member for resources, said: “The evidence is clear – develop or decline.
"We have no alternative.”
The Northgate Development Concept scheme includes:
• A vibrant new leisure square adjacent to the new theatre and library complex, a replacement market and a eight-screen cinema, complementing the 120-seat cinema.
• 375,240 sq ft of retail floor space – including an anchor department store – 51 standard unit stores; two kiosks and five major store units; a small food store of 6,555 sq ft and 79,233 sq ft of food and drink units.
• Parking is proposed both underground and in a multi storey car park. The total number of spaces is 954, which include replacement, new and upgraded parking spaces.
• A new bus facility is proposed at Gorse Stacks within the transport strategy - subject to public consultation - and direct public transport access into the site with three bus lay-bys for dropping off/picking up adjacent to a new market hall.
The original Northgate Development scheme dates back to 2000 when the former Chester City Council formed a partnership with ING Real Estate Developers.
But in February last year, Cheshire West and Chester Council decided to terminate that long-standing agreement having concluded there was little likelihood of progress.
Chester councillor Samantha Dixon, a member of the all-party Northgate working group, said: “Chester is the retail engine that needs to carry the rest of the borough.
“It should be performing strongly, bringing jobs and money into the borough and contributing to increase revenue."
Some members cautioned Northgate would have to be accompanied by appropriate transport facilities, as well as safeguards ensuring the development would not adversely affect other parts of the city centre.
Council leader Cllr Mike Jones agreed the possible effects of Northgate on other parts of the city was a critical issue and needed “very careful management.”
Members agreed to approve the procurement of a development and design team and the finance to get concepts to the planning application stage by spring 2015.
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