23 September 2014
The first major step in the regeneration of Chester’s city centre was given the green light last week.
Councillors unanimously approved plans for a £37.05m Cultural Centre, featuring a new theatre, library, 120 seat cinema, cafe and offices, based around the city’s former Art Deco Odeon cinema, in Upper Northgate Street.
Members of the Strategic Planning Committee queued up to praise plans for a scheme that has attracted unprecedented support from the community and will form the heart of the £300m Northgate redevelopment.
Empty for the past eight years the Grade II listed Odeon was chosen from three short-listed sites after massive consultation exercises with the public and cultural organisations throughout West Cheshire.
Paul Shuker, Director for Planning, WYG, comments: “We are honoured to be associated with securing the planning permission for Cheshire West & Chester’s flagship scheme which forms the first jigsaw piece in the wider regeneration initiatives progressing in the city centre. The vision, which has been articulated wonderfully by Bennetts Associate Architects, will deliver an innovative building that retains the integrity of an extremely complex listed building whilst balancing the key functionalities required for a sustainable cultural facility that will benefit both existing and future generations of Chester. The key to delivery was obtaining, through positive engagement, the ownership from the local communities who will ultimately use and visit this facility. The positive reaction to the project from the community has been overwhelming and has provided a real buzz about the future direction of the city centre, which is often lost on planning projects and is testimony to the thoroughness of the client and design team in listening to the community’s needs.”
Dane Harrop, Senior Design Manager, Kier Construction, says: “WYG provided excellent support throughout the design process and managed a considerable and thorough consultation process which culminated in the coordination of a robust and comprehensive planning submission. The successful approval of this scheme was down to the whole team's approach and this needs to continue through the construction phase to deliver this exemplar project for Chester.”
Simon Erridge, Director, Bennetts Associates, adds: “We’re delighted that this exciting project has been granted planning permission. We’ve been able to build on our experience working with historic theatres to create exciting and versatile spaces that provides a valuable amenity for Chester. The regeneration of such a historically significant but currently disused building is also great news for the city centre, and we’re looking forward to seeing the project progress.”
Expected to open in autumn 2016, the project will generate over £16m annually in gross expenditure and create a total of 1,500 jobs throughout the contract period.
Images: Bennetts Associates.