PROGRESS on the £400m Northgate Development is on hold until further notice. Last week The Chronicle revealed the city centre regeneration scheme by ING Real Estate was under threat because of the “global credit crunch”.
There is no guarantee the scheme will now happen although Chester City Council is hoping it is just a matter of “timings”.
A minimum two-three months delay is expected, paralysing the Northgate timetable and creating uncertainty for shop workers, market traders and council workers at The Forum, which is due to be demolished.
The Gateway Theatre has already closed, buildings have been demolished and the top floor of Trinity Street car park has been closed to the public to make way for private car parking displaced by construction work.
This week Cliff Mallows, the city council’s head of Northgate Development, wrote to market traders who are due to move out of the market hall into a new building, with the first phase scheduled to be ready by November next year.
He said: “Both ING and the city council are committed to delivering the Northgate scheme and are currently reviewing the options that will enable us to bring the matter forward in the New Year. This means that all the current programme dates will have to be reviewed and by way of example there are no dates yet available for the closure of the bus station or changes to the access arrangements for the loading bay.
“We will keep your representatives up to date with developments through the Market Traders Joint Consultative Committee as soon as we have more information to share. It’s likely that there will be two-three months delay.”
Mr Mallows added: “Clearly it is very disappointing to have reached this stage after many years of discussion and consultation but the city council is dedicated to realising this scheme and we have every intention of resolving the current problems and getting work on site as soon as possible.”
Delays are a problem for Chester City Council which must make progress with construction of a replacement building in anticipation of vacating its Forum headquarters ahead of demolition work to make way for new shopping streets.
In a joint statement, developer ING Real Estate and Chester City Council this week shed more light on why the Northgate scheme has ground to a halt.
ING Real Estate development director David Alker said: “Due to the current issues facing the credit markets, commercial and construction price inflation and market conditions, we have no choice but to review the timings of the scheme. We remain committed to Chester and the Northgate scheme while we consider the options open to us.”
Leader of Chester City Council Cllr Margaret Parker said: “The city council is dedicated to realising this tremendous scheme. Unfortunately, the international credit squeeze is affecting this project just as it is developments all over Britain. We will be working closely with ING Real Estate to resolve these issues and progress work on Northgate as soon as possible.”