CHESTER’S £460m Northgate Development regeneration scheme has officially been put on hold because of the credit crunch with no construction work likely to start until 2012.
Developers ING Real Estate are optimistic a deal to deliver the project can be struck with an investment partner by the end of 2008.
But the announcement dashes hopes that construction work to provide new shopping streets and public amenities, such as a performing arts centre, might get under way next year.
ING admits the project will have to be looked at afresh with a redesign, new planning consents and compulsory purchase orders on properties which will have to be demolished.
The Dutch finance house says the decision to delay will enable a full review of the project to ensure it will meet the needs of the city once the market recovers.
David Alker, development director at ING Real Estate said: “ING remains fully committed to delivering regeneration for the Northgate Quarter of the city.
“We have welcomed the opportunity of more time to review the project to provide the best solution we can for Chester, and in the meantime we are pushing ahead with our detailed discussions with interested development partners for the scheme.”
ING Real Estate is expected to select a preferred development partner from a short-list of three by the end of 2008.
He said the partners will also undertake a full public consultation to provide the local community with a chance to find out more about the development and any proposed changes.
During the interim period, Chester City Council is working in partnership with Chester Renaissance and other agencies to explore ways to continue to improve the city centre and invest in the existing site. This will include additional cultural events which will be held at different venues across the city.
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for development at Chester City Council said: “The credit crunch continues to affect schemes across the UK and it makes sense to postpone the development until the market begins to recover. The scheme remains very much alive and both the city council and ING Real Estate are dedicated to delivering a new and vibrant quarter for Chester through the Northgate Development.”
Cllr Parker added that ING had signed a legally-binding development agreement which remained in place and demonstrated the commitment to delivering the Northgate Development.