Plans for a modern retail, residential and dining development in Chester’s historic Watergate Street have well and truly divided opinion.

News of the plans sparked plenty of heated debate on The Chronicle’s Facebook page, with the design branded ‘dull’ and ‘awful’ by some while many others had no issues with it at all.

The proposed mixed-use scheme is for 14-20 Watergate Street, currently home to fashion retailer Reiss, Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee. It involves the retention of the existing tenants on the ground and first floors and an extension to allow the creation of 23 one and two-bedroom apartments.

A new eatery is also planned for the rear of the building, which would be accessed via the proposed pedestrianised area that forms part of the £300 million Northgate development.

But Kate Smallwood was one of many Chronicle readers who felt the development would ruin the look and feel of Watergate Street.

Kate said: “Looks awful. Totally ruins the historic feel. People come to Chester to see the character buildings and historic aspects of the town. Does Chester really need any more restaurants?”

'Disappointing design'

Margaret Stening agreed, adding: “It’s no longer the city I was born in. I remember the old market and all around the town hall square. It makes my blood boil.”

Craig Greenaway said the design was “very disappointing” and added that “replacing like for like does not justify this decision. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now”.

The rear view of the proposed food and beverage unit and the Northgate development's pedestrianised area
The rear view of the proposed food and beverage unit and the Northgate development's pedestrianised area

Melissa Westwood said: “I’ve only lived in Chester for five years and in that short space of time I’ve seen Chester deteriorate. Why build more restaurants and hotels because there’s going to be nothing left to attract tourists to the city?”

Andrew Lindop concurred, saying: “There is very little beauty in design these days. The age of the computer has made everything functional. And very dull.”

'Good for Chester'

But others felt that the plans would not significantly change the face of Watergate Street,

Vanessa Owen said: “This is almost exactly the same at the front as it is now. I think it is important to use the buildings in Chester and half of this building is empty.

“They will be creating a link between the new Northgate development to Watergate Street which will benefit the retail units in Watergate Street. This is also mainly planned for residential units which will bring people into Chester to keep it alive. I think this will be good for Chester.”

Front view of Cassidy + Ashton's vision for the Watergate Street scheme
The full front view of Cassidy + Ashton's vision for the Watergate Street scheme

Rich Spilman said: “Essentially this joins the older Watergate St with the new Northgate development. It should work fine and, happily, avoids the ‘mock Tudor’ so loved in the 1980s.”

These views were echoed by Antonio Chester, who said: “It’s a modern building replacing a modern building. No issues with it.”

Scheme 'respects heritage'

The application has been submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council by Chester-based architectural, building surveying and planning practice Cassidy + Ashton, on behalf of independent property capital advisory and investment management specialist, Brotherton Real Estate.

Cassidy + Ashton say they have worked closely with the council’s planning team, conservation officer and commercial advisors Rivington Land, and Historic England to propose a scheme that respects the heritage of Chester, complements the proposed Northgate development, and answers the city’s requirements for improvements to the built environment that supports both commercial and evening economy goals.

What do you think? Leave your views in the comments section below.