A vision has been unveiled for a £10m new grass-roofed bus station to make way for the long-awaited £300m Northgate Development.

Gorse Stacks car park is Cheshire West and Chester Council’s preferred location for the u-shaped interchange – with nine internal stands and four on George Street –  as  a replacement for the current exchange which is earmarked for the retail scheme.

 

Northgate aims to help reverse Chester’s decline as a top retail destination against fierce competition from other cities and out-of-town shopping centres but is said to be unviable unless the bus exchange area is freed up for development – although Northgate would also include three bus  stops.

The transport vision includes a free ‘shopper hopper’ bus – possibly electric, hybrid or low pollution – circling the city in an anti-clockwise direction with strong links between the railway station and the new bus exchange, which will feature real time bus information screens and may also include charging points for electric bicycles.

Gorse Stacks parking spaces would be replaced by the 355-space underground car park at the new Delamere Street building.

At a consultation meeting attended by 50 residents, concerns were raised by pensioners from Waterside View, who would  overlook the new bus interchange, about  “more stops, more fumes, more asthma”.

David Hughes, Cheshire County Council’s  former chief engineer, said the original consultation on the council’s transport  strategy was “very badly flawed”. Mr  Hughes, who asked why the bus station couldn’t be incorporated into Northgate as originally envisaged, added: “I don’t consider this is the right location for the bus station.”

Ex-Chester city councillor and bus user Gwyn Cooper, of Balmoral Park, said people without their own transport used buses to access Chester Market Hall directly and she fears longer journey times for residents wanting to go to that part of the city.

She explained: “My understanding at the moment is that all the buses will come in here (new bus station). There will then be a system of  little electric or other type buses doing the rounds. At the moment what is probably a five minute bus trip into town for  me – I use the bus because it’s actually a very steep gradient – that will take me five minutes to get there. How much longer is it going to take the residents to wait for the bus to get into town? You are going to double if not treble the journey time.”

Resident Donal Farrell, of George Street, told the meeting he broadly welcomed the scheme but says it must be well designed.

A planning application will be submitted in November, to be decided in December, with construction due to start next spring  and completion in late summer 2016. A  funding application has been submitted to the Local Enterprise Partnership with a decision expected in July. Under current plans, The Ship Victory pub will be demolished. The canal end of Frodsham  Street could be realigned to allow for a mixed office and commercial development in front of Mecca bingo.

Work won’t go-ahead until an anchor tenant has been secured for Northgate. A  review of the commercial viability of the  current Northgate scheme is also being reviewed given the fast changing retail  landscape including the growth of online shopping.

Consultant Dave Anderson, head of planning projects at CWaC, told the meeting:  “Until that bus station moves, the second phase of Northgate, which is the main retail development, cannot be realised.”

He added: “This is a really important and sensitive gateway into Chester and it’s therefore imperative that we consider the aesthetics of the design as well as the practical and functional requirements for a bus station.”