The plans for the proposed new Chester market, scheduled to open in late 2019 have been revealed to market traders who have been invited to join in the consultation about what the new market will look like.
This is the first major development for the market in over 20 years. The plans for the transformation of Chester’s Northgate include a brand new market centrally located in a market square, which will stand on the land vacated by the current bus station, once the new Gorse stacks interchange opens.
The market will be below a new multiscreen cinema and next to the Storyhouse cultural centre which is opening in Spring 2017, giving the market a more central location in the emerging new Chester.
The market traders have been asked to decide if they want to have a stall in the new market and have been invited to apply for a space. All of the successful traders will then also be invited to help with the designs of the building. Senior construction manager for Cheshire West and lead officer for the Northgate Development Clare Huber said that the market was “fundamentally a massive part of the Northgate development” Every trader will be supported in their application and business plans and asked what they wanted from the new market.
Traders who do not want to be part of the new market, who wish to retire, or move to a different location will be consulted with , and everyone treated individually. Andrew Sparrow of WMC Retail Partners who are advising the council on the new market said there was also a legal framework in place in terms of protection available for traders as part of the Landlord and Tenant Act. WMC have successfully moving markets in Watford, Luton, and Shepherds Bush and have been involved in market management across the country.
The new market will offer a strong food offer based on fresh produce and hot cooked food. In addition the aim is to create a mix of good quality non-food traders, services, themed events and regular speciality markets. The council say the new market will offer an enhanced shopping experience with new traders, better seating areas and a “fresh food offer to rival supermarkets; a catering offer that is different to the High Street; niche products or merchandise not usually found in High Street retailers; and high quality goods/professional services that will appeal to a broad range of shoppers.”
The new market is intended to be a ” bright and welcoming public market place, open to all.” Extended and flexible opening hours are also proposed with the market becoming a meeting place and social venue. The market will be at the “core of the Northgate Masterplan and a “must see” destination in its own right”
Said Councillor Brian Clarke, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure: “Markets have played a vital role in the high street for many years and Chester is no exception, there has been a traditional market in the city since the 12th century.
“We are pleased to welcome market experts WMC Retail Partners to help the design process. They bring over 800 years’ experience in managing markets. WMC know how markets work and will help us create how the market of tomorrow will look.”
Added Councillor Stuart Parker, Shadow Cabinet Member, Communities and Wellbeing: “With the help of the traders the new Chester Market will be an exciting shopping experience benefiting from better visibility, increased access and upgraded front and back of house facilities and a new identity.” Councillor Parker also acknowledged the feelings of market traders who have felt isolated due to their location, and admitted that investment had not been forthcoming as previous councils have not wanted to waste public money on a building that was set for demolition anyway.
With the current bus station closing in early 2017, the council will be working with the traders in the transition period and are looking at access options including additional bus stops and a link bus to the market. Clare Huber confirmed that the council is already working with the contractors to ensure access to the market and market car park is maintained during the construction period.
The new cinema on top of the market is intended to be a “completely different offer” to the likes of Cheshire Oaks said Ms Huber. “We are looking at the nigh time economy, you can come in with your kid and have an experience. Its all about making the offer a little bit different.” Addressing concerns about parking she said that a complicated phasing strategy was in place and the completed development would include a hotel car park and a public car park, as well as the nearby Delamere street car park.
Ms Huber stated that there was still a demand for more retail space despite empty units elsewhere in the city: “GAP closing in Chester was a blow. We have a number of enquiries from high end retailers that dont fit in our boutique shops. If you look at the rows, we dont open the square footage that the retailers want. Its about making it a destination but having the right size shops to accommodate the people that want to be here. Northgate will hopefully be a footfall driver for other retailers.”
The plans for the Northgate can be seen online at http://chesternorthgate.com/
Comments are welcome during the summer before the plans are presented to the Planning Committee on the 15th September. Once passed the project would then go to full council for approval in November.