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McGuirkWatson reworks rejected Chester racecourse plans

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McGuirkWatson has revised its masterplan for Chester Racecourse – axing a multistorey car park, combining a proposed conference centre and grandstand into one building and opening up views of the city.

Councillors refused the initial planning application to upgrade the world’s oldest racecourse in March 2019 over concerns the new buildings would damage views of the walled Roman city’s historic skyline.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee said the ‘height, scale and massing of the proposed buildings would be overly dominant and incongruous in its setting’. And local residents in nearby apartments complained that the new development would cause access problems and pollution.

The course’s owner, Chester Race Company, has now submitted a revised plan which dispenses with a proposed 370-space multistorey car park. The scheme also combines its two key buildings into a conference centre and six storey grandstand. The Leverhulme Stand will be demolished and replaced by a large fan-shaped public lawn which will open up views between the racecourse and the City Walls.

Chester Race Company’s racecourse surveyor Chris Clayton said the client was ‘totally satisfied with the architects’ after the first plan was rejected. But he confirmed the reworked scheme had taken on board the objections and placed the tall grandstand in a ‘slightly less contentious location.’

Instead of a ‘street theme’ with many small green spaces, the revised plan has one much larger green space. He described the masterplan as a vision for the next 10 to 20 years and said there were no cost implications in the new plan.

Tony McGuirk, who is overseeing the design at the four-year-old practice, was previously chairman at the UK’s second biggest practice BDP.

While at BDP he was lead architect on Aintree’s new grandstands and Number One court at Wimbledon.

McGuirk described Chester Racecourse as ‘truly unique in the way it spills out from the city walls.’ With the site on common land, the aim behind the scheme was to create a new pedestrian area and green space for the west side of the city that everyone could use, he said.

Chester Race Company chief executive Richard Thomas added: ‘The conference centre and grandstand will be a fantastic civic building for the city and on race days provide a new viewing and hospitality grandstand like no other.

‘With a strong focus on sustainability in its design, construction and use, this innovative new building will again put Chester at the forefront of the UK’s major sporting venues.’

190703 mw aj chester racecourse with models

McGuirkWatson’s revised designs for Chester Racecourse - summer 2019.

McGuirkWatson’s revised designs for Chester Racecourse - summer 2019

Project data

Location Watergate Square and Racecourse Lands, New Crane Street, City of Chester
Type of project Urban design masterplan with buildings for conference/ exhibition with sport and leisure
Client Chester Race Company
Architect and urban designer McGuirkWatson Architecture and Urban Design
Landscape architect McGuirkWatson
Planning consultant Chris Clayton with McGuirkWatson (as urban design consultant)
Structural engineer Ramboll
M&E consultant Ramboll
Quantity surveyor FWP
CDM adviser Not determined
Lighting consultant Ramboll
Main contractor Not determined
Funding Chester Race Company
Form of contract and/or procurement Initial phase - two stage Design and Build. Other routes will be considered and could be traditional.

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