A public inquiry will take place in February in the next major step towards making the £300m Northgate Development become a reality.
Northgate aspires to put Chester back on the map as one of the UK’s leading shopping destinations by delivering 500,000 sq ft of new shops, restaurant and leisure facilities over two phases with construction due to start in 2018.
It will consider a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by Cheshire West and Chester Council to buy 70 properties in the regeneration area as well as applications to move the market and carry out changes to the highway including closing Princess Street, Trinity Street, Hamilton Place, Crook Street and Goss Street.
External investors are sought for the council-backed scheme which will include:
■ House of Fraser department store to anchor a project featuring large and small shops
■ New market hall
■ Picturehouse six-screen cinema
■ Replacement Crowne Plaza hotel with conference facilities
■ Parking for around 800 cars
CWaC owns 85% of the redevelopment area but served a CPO to buy up 70 plots including 10 residential investment properties in the area of Hunter Street, St Martin’s Way, rear of Watergate Street and Northgate Street behind Town Hall Square.
In addition, an application was made for ministerial approval to relocate the market from The Forum shopping centre – which will be demolished – into a brand new building within a new market square to the rear of the former library. There has been a market in Chester since at least the year 1139.
The inquiry considering these matters will be held in conjunction with the inquiry into the Department of Transport ‘stopping up order’ to close various city centre streets.
It is expected to run until Friday, February 23, with the ultimate decision resting with the Secretary of State.
The Northgate project has been around in various guises since 1991 with the last incarnation foundering due to the 2008 credit crunch. In 2005 there were 87 objectors to what was then a city council-backed scheme triggering a public inquiry that concluded with the CPO being given the go-ahead even though the regeneration never happened.
CWaC says it has been in discussion with affected property owners for some time, who are all aware of why a CPO is necessary to deliver the new redevelopment and have received a copy of the order. The council recently advertised for the services of a consultant, in a £160,000 contract, to assist with relocating two city centre businesses affected by Northgate.
Clare Huber, senior programme manager for construction and regeneration major projects with CWaC, said: "The CPO public inquiry is a key milestone on the development path to making Chester Northgate a reality. The council’s continued support to the development is based upon effective management of risk and acquiring the land for the development is key to the scheme’s delivery.
"The council is working hard with affected landowners and interested parties to ensure that wherever possible land is acquired by agreement and that compulsory purchase is an option of last resort."
An information centre will open in the Forum shopping centre in the new year offering updates on the emerging design of Northgate.