A new Chester hotel to replace the existing Crowne Plaza is the latest addition to the enhanced masterplan for the £300m Northgate development which is to be considered by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday (September 2).
The proposals for the flagship retail and leisure development now include a new hotel as a replacement to the 1980s Crowne Plaza.
This would free up the site of the existing hotel and Trinity Street car park for the anchor department store - formerly earmarked for a site at the rear of the hotel - offering it a more prominent location with direct visibility from St Martin’s Way.
A replacement 168-bed hotel with spa and conference facilities, a rooftop restaurant and public car parking would be built a short distance away on the existing pocket park between Princess Street and Hunter Street.
It follows a review by the council’s development manager Rivington Land to ensure that the masterplan - developed in 2012 - reflects current retail market requirements and demands.
Relocating the Crowne Plaza during the first phase of the Northgate development would, the Cabinet report states, create a stronger and more legible retail circuit with additional prime frontage.
A small reduction in the number of planned retail units is proposed but with an increase in average size to reflect retailer demand.
The report recommends that members support the enhanced masterplan - described as ‘a superior overall regeneration scheme’ - as the basis for bringing forward a planning application in early 2016.
Cllr Samantha Dixon, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “The delivery of Chester Northgate has been a longstanding aspiration for the council and one on which there has been consensus across party political lines.
“I look forward to discussing the enhanced masterplan proposals with my Cabinet colleagues. This is an important step in shaping the future vision for the city.”
Cllr Stuart Parker, Opposition spokesman for culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “Northgate remains a vitally important scheme for the future prosperity of Chester and the wider borough.
“We supported the development while in administration and are committed to working with the current administration to bring this exciting scheme to fruition.”
The Cabinet report states the 2012 masterplan was constrained by the need to build around the hotel and car park at a time when property market conditions were only just recovering from the 2007/08 financial crisis.
A gradual recovery in the market, the report notes, now presents the opportunity to deliver a ‘comprehensive development’ incorporating the hotel and car park sites.
The enhanced masterplan includes a proposal to accelerate a detailed planning application for the space vacated when Chester Library moves into the new cultural centre in November 2016.
The converted and extended former library building would be home to restaurants and bars to complement the neighbouring £37m theatre, cinema and library development.
Residential accommodation also features in the revised proposals, following the continuing recovery of the local housing market, with 40 apartments included as an integral part of the scheme.
The enhanced masterplan also provide four bus stands accessed directly off St Martin’s Way which will improve bus capacity and penetration into the main shopping thoroughfare.
Rivington Land was appointed by the council in July 2014 to steer the Northgate scheme through the planning and development process.
It has reviewed the masterplan alongside scheme architects ACME and leasing agents Jones Lang LaSalle who provided market-based feedback from major retailers and restaurant operators about their preferred store sizes and layouts.
David Lewis, managing director of Rivington Land, said: “We are confident the enhanced scheme proposals we have recommended to the council present an excellent opportunity to attract the major retail investment needed to develop and modernise Chester’s shopping and leisure amenities, and improve the experience of the city for residents and visitors alike.”
The Northgate masterplan envisages the creation of a new retail and leisure quarter, anchored by a department store, a new market hall, multi-screen cinema and new multi-storey car park for about 900 cars.