THE owners of 70 properties in Chester city centre will be forced to sell them to the council to make way for the £300 million Northgate scheme.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the buildings in the general area of Hunter Street, St Martins Way, the rear of Watergate Street, and Northgate Street behind Town Hall Square.

Council chiefs say they have been in discussions with the affected property owners for some time. The buildings are located on the site earmarked for the long-awaited new leisure and retail complex.

A spokesman said they are “all aware of why a CPO is necessary to deliver the new redevelopment and will receive a copy of the order this next week”.

A list of exactly which properties will be compulsorily purchased has not been given.

Cllr Brian Clarke, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure, said: “We understand that making a CPO to acquire property interests can be difficult for property owners so we have been meeting and talking with them for some time to try and get an agreement that is right for all parties.

“This is a necessary step towards delivering the new Chester Northgate. We are now closer than we have ever been before. The finish line may be in the distance but we are marching towards it.

“We are committed to creating and investing in a vibrant city. We have delivered on Storyhouse, we have delivered Frodsham Street and our residents can trust that we will deliver on Northgate too.”

The Northgate scheme will feature a new market in the area of the former library as well as a multiplex cinema, shopping centre, cafes, restaurants and residential areas. It will reportedly create 2,500 jobs, provide 1,000 new car parking spaces and 120 new homes.

As part of the development, the 160-bedroom Crowne Plaza Hotel, on Trinity Street, will be razed to the ground to make way for a new flagship House of Fraser department store

A replacement hotel with a rooftop restaurant will be constructed on Princess Street, next to the new Storyhouse theatre and library complex.

The first phase of construction is due to start next year, opening at the end of 2019. Phase two begins later in 2018 with the whole development opening late 2020 or early 2021.