A BIDDING war has begun between construction companies for the contract to build the £300m Northgate development in Chester.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has advertised for a construction partner to deliver the huge retail and leisure scheme, said to be one of the largest in the country.

Council chiefs say the advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Union marks an important milestone for a project that many thought would never get off the ground.

The first stage of the appointment will be limited to developing the design proposals.

The council recently made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and served notices on around 70 properties in the city centre development area to secure the land.

Construction on the scheme could start at the end of 2018 but will be dependent on the Secretary of State confirming the CPO following completion of the statutory process.

CWaC is currently leading the development of the project which it says “will transform Chester and help drive the local, regional and tourist economies”.

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “This is an exciting time for Northgate and Chester.

“The recent opening of the bus interchange and Storyhouse has demonstrated our commitment to the city and commencing the process of appointing a contractor for Chester Northgate is further evidence of our commitment and ambitions.”

Cllr Stuart Parker, shadow cabinet member for communities, added: “The start of the process for the contractor is a clear indication of the pace that is being maintained on the delivery of this critical project.

“It’s important our historic city remains relevant and is a vibrant centre where people want to come to shop, live work and spend their leisure time and Chester Northgate supports these ambitions.”

Contractors have until the end of September 2017 to respond to the advertisement.

Submissions will be assessed and contractors shortlisted by a team of council officers and professional advisors.

Shortlisted contractors will be notified in October and invited to tender with an appointment of the successful contractor likely in February/March 2018.

A council spokesman added: “A high level of interest is anticipated due to the profile of the project and the fact that it is one of the largest city centre development schemes in the country.

“The project will seek contractors with significant experience in large, city centre development schemes.

“They will also need to demonstrate their ability to work in a historic environment given the impact that the city’s history has on development, particularly with regard to its archaeology.”

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 and will provide 1,000 new car parking spaces and 120 new homes for the city centre.

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.