Council chiefs hailed a ‘significant milestone’ in the delivery of Chester’s new £10m bus interchange.

Executive members agreed for the project, earmarked for Gorse Stacks, to move from the design stage to construction procurement.

The bus interchange is described as a ‘key enabling’ project because it will replace the current Princess Street exchange, freeing up the space for the £300m Northgate Development. However, critics are concerned about moving the bus station to the edge of the city centre and away from the market hall.

 

Cllr Lynda Jones, executive member for growth and innovation, outlined the reasons for moving to procurement prior to securing planning approval and confirmation of Local Growth funding, which is part funding the interchange.

She said: “It does mean a brief period where council funds are being invested at risk, but starting procurement at this stage will yield benefits of about two months in the programme of completing the interchange and free up the Princess Street site for the commencement of works on the Northgate scheme.”

Members viewed images of the proposed design of the interchange, which has been modified in response to comments from the latest round of public consultation.

The meeting heard that £262,000 had been spent to date on design work and technical studies, and that the decision to move to procurement would release a further £767,000 to progress the scheme.

Councillor Jones added: “This is a further significant milestone in the process of delivering a much-needed modern bus interchange and paving the way for work to commence on the Northgate scheme that is so important for the future economic prosperity of the city centre.”

David Hughes, Cheshire County Council’s former chief engineer, asked at a consultation meeting in the summer why the bus station couldn’t be incorporated into Northgate as originally envisaged, adding: “I don’t consider this is the right location for the bus station.”

Concerns were also raised by pensioners from Waterside View, who would overlook the new bus interchange, about ‘more stops, more fumes, more asthma’.

The bus station application is expected to be determined by the council’s Strategic Planning Committee on December 16.

Subject to approval, construction is expected to begin in summer 2015 with completion scheduled for autumn 2016.

The loss of 168 parking spaces at Gorse Stacks would be more than offset by a new council-owned underground car park at Delamere Street providing 355 spaces.