A MASSIVE development that could bring 1,600 new jobs to Chester has taken a major step forward.
Council chiefs have revealed a multi-million pound deal has been agreed to deliver the long delayed Northgate Redevelopment Scheme – first put forward in the early 1990s.
Described as a “truly momentous moment” for the city by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) leader, Cllr Mike Jones, the deal will see the council acquire 85 per cent of the land needed to deliver the ambitious plan.
The propsals will see new shops, flats, bars and restaurants created in an important part of the city centre.
At a special council meeting in Winsford, the deal to purchase the assets from ING Real Estate Development UK, who were behind one of the failed bids to redevelop the Northgate Street area, received unanimous backing and represented a significant step forward in the battle to reverse Chester’s decline as a top retail centre.
Cllr Jones said: “This is a truly momentous moment for Chester. Negotiations have been in progress for some time and I am delighted that we have reached a positive agreement with ING Real Estate Development UK.
“In September, the experts told us very clearly that Chester must develop or decline. This announcement reflects our determination to ensure our city enjoys a prosperous future as an iconic retail, culture and heritage centre.”“These are indeed exciting times for Chester with preliminary work on the theatre site already under way.”
The £300m Northgate Scheme will create more than 200 construction and around 1,600 full-time equivalent jobs for the city, with additional economic benefits such as increased visitor spending and wages of new workers expected to give the city a much needed boost.
CWAC have acquired The Forum shopping centre; the grassed and landscaped area by St Martin’s Way, Hunters Walk and Princess Street; land and paved area east and south east of Goldsmith House and Hamilton Place; Kirkton House, Hunter Street and land to the west side and rear of Hunter Street.
A spokesman for ING Real Estate Development UK said: “We are confident that this sale will help to secure a vibrant and exciting centre for residents of Chester and visitors alike. Having Cheshire West and Chester Council invest directly in the Northgate development is a strong vote of confidence in the long term vision for this historic centre.”
In September, members agreed to approve the procurement of a development and design team and the finance to get the Northgate concept plans to the planning application stage by spring 2015.
They had considered a report from CACI – the London-based specialist consumer and retail research company – warning that in terms of cash spend per head of the population, Chester had dropped from 27 out of 4,000 retail centres in 2006 to 59 in 2012.
CACI considered that the Northgate scheme is estimated to attract a further £90m annual retail spend to the city of Chester as a whole.
Cllr Ben Powell, opposition spokesman for Resources and a member of the cross-party Northgate Working Group said: “The Northgate Development is not only critical to Chester‘s ability to resist strong competition from its neighbours - but will also bring benefits for the whole of the Borough in the shape of investment, tourism and new jobs.
“Acquisition of ING’s interests was critical to demonstrating confidence to the investment market in the Council’s ability to progress with a scheme, first envisaged, in a different form, in 1992, by the former City Council.”