Cheshire Oaks expansion approval puts Chester's Northgate scheme in jeopardy

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Ellesmere Port)

Chester’s Northgate Development scheme could be in jeopardy after a scheme to expand Cheshire Oaks was recommended for approval by council officers. 

The proposals would be a major expansion for the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, in Ellesmere Port, and is expected to create 300 jobs by adding more space for retail and restaurant space. 

The designer outlet is Britain’s largest with a turnover in the region of £216million and it plans to give itself a make over for its 21st birthday with the expansion.

As part of the expansion plans the outlet – which currently has more than 145 shops, restaurants and cafes – wants to create a new 300 space car park deck, new car park entrances, a community space, a new children’s play area, a footbridge link between Cheshire Oaks and Thornton Road, and new retail and restaurant units.

But London-based agents G L Hearn, who are in charge of Chester’s Northgate plans, objected to the scheme saying that the development so close to Chester would threaten investor confidence and does not meet the “town centre first” approach.

They said it was a “particular concern” that Cheshire Oaks plans did not assess the effect on Chester’s investment aspirations and that the Northgate scheme was “critical to reversing the decline in the city centre and clawing back expenditure leaking to places such as Cheshire Oaks” with premium brands a target for Northgate.

The agents asked for the plans to be rejected due to the “significant adverse effect” on Chester city centre, adding “it is inconceivable the two will not compete.” 

Despite the objections the council’s officers have recommended that the scheme be given the green light, subject to section 106 agreements, at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, February 6. 

Case officer Paul Friston said: “The Council has adopted a town centre first approach to proposals for retail and leisure development and Cheshire Oaks is outwith the town centre hierarchy.

“Consideration has been given to the concerns on behalf of the Chester Northgate project and potential impact on investor confidence for the Northgate scheme in Chester city centre, which is crucial to the Council’s key aims for delivering additional non-food floorspace in Chester.

“However, the conclusions of the Council’s retail consultant are that due to the qualitative different nature of the scheme at Cheshire Oaks the development is unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on the delivery of the Northgate scheme.” 

The officer also recommended that the developer give a £50,000 contribution towards the off site traffic signage and £141,700 to environmental improvements as a condition of permission. 

The development was initially expeceted to be built in a number of stages over three years but the latest phasing plan from the developer suggests that most of the work would begin in January 2018 and be completed by October 2018, subject to planning 

See full story in the Chester Leader

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