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Green light for AHR’s reworking of Acme Chester city centre masterplan

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Councillors have approved AHR’s ‘positive’ rework of a city-centre regeneration project in the North West initially drawn up by an Acme-led team

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Planning Committee granted consent for amendments to the first two phases of the Chester Northgate scheme.

Acme worked with Hawkins\Brown, dMFK and Leslie Jones Architecture on a masterplan for the retail-led development, which gained outline approval in 2016.

Detailed plans for phases zero and one were granted consent at the same time. These proposed a library converted into food outlets, office space, and an arcade to link Town Hall Square and a new Market Square, which would also be created under the proposals, along with a cinema and other leisure space.

But the local authority, acting as client for the ambitious £300 million city centre overhaul, decided not to keep the design team on beyond Stage 3 duties.

Main contractor Vinci brought in AHR for the 33,757m² phases zero (shown as NG3b below) and one (shown as NG1 and NG2 below), with a new planning application submitted to vary the detail of the existing consent. 

‘Overall, it is considered that the amendments are positive and create much stronger sense of place for the new public square and clear cohesive architectural and contemporary language for Chester for the 21st century,’ said planning officers in a report to councillors this week.

The amendments create a much stronger sense of place

They added: ‘It is considered that the proposal constitutes a more integrated and lightweight design that would create a strong and well-designed urban quarter of the city centre.’

Key changes made by AHR to phase zero include replacing arches with right angles in the proposed Hunter’s Walk shopping arcade, and giving it a double-height entrance.

On phase one, a plan for a hotel is removed, with a glazed rooflight added to the proposed market hall. The cinema will be bronze-clad, with living green walls.

Councillor Richard Beacham said: ‘Planning approval for the first phase of the Northgate development is a welcome milestone in a long and complex journey towards building a brand-new leisure destination in the heart of Chester.

‘This is long-awaited and much needed investment in this part of our city centre and it will have a positive impact for residents, local businesses and the local economy with the creation of new jobs and new work for local suppliers.’

Work could start on site in January.

Acme director Friedrich Ludewig said earlier this year that he had cautioned the council that the time for ‘retail-led regeneration’ had passed.

He said at the time: ‘We don’t think there is any point in reacting to the ongoing decline in retail by value-engineering a retail-led masterplan. We hope the route the council is pursuing now does not lead to the site remaining empty for another 10 years.’

Chester plans crop

Chester plans crop

Project data [phase 0 and phase 1 only]

Location Chester city centre
Type of project Regeneration
Client Cheshire West and Chester Council
Architect AHR
Landscape architect Planit-IE
Planning consultant Avison Young
Structural engineer Curtins
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
CDM adviser Keelagher Okey Klein
Lighting consultant Hoare Lea
Main contractor Vinci
Funding Cheshire West and Chester Council
Tender date 23 August 2017 (for main contractor)
Start on site 20 February 2020
Completion 8 October 2021
Contract duration 81 weeks
Gross internal floor area 33,757m²
Form of contract JCT Design and Build, NEC3 for offsite drainage
Total cost Undisclosed

Hunters walk image 01

AHR’s approved plans for Chester Northgate (September 2019) - Hunters Walk

AHR’s approved plans for Chester Northgate (September 2019) - Hunters Walk

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