THE first major milestone in the redevelopment of Northwich will open its doors to shoppers before Christmas 2013.
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held at Hayhurst Quay on Monday and project leaders said they expected the site’s planned Waitrose store to open within 12 months.
The area, which formerly housed Northwich Marina, the Regal cinema and shoppers’ car parks, was fenced off on December 3 and during the next two years will become home to a Waitrose, 58 McCarthy and Stone extra care apartments, a 40-berth marina, waterside restaurant and public space.
H2O, a national joint venture between the Canal and River Trust and private developer bloc, are behind the £19.5 million scheme, which has caused concern because of the closure of car parks in the run up to Christmas.
Davenham man Mike Coates, investment and development manager for the Canal and River Trust, said: “The important thing is to get the store open for next Christmas.
“It’s such a tight programme and we needed to get on site now or we would have been delayed for another five weeks.
“Because of the Christmas period and the shut down we couldn’t have mobilised until towards the end of January so the store wouldn’t be open until 2014.
“It is a shame but it is for the greater good.”
Mike, who has been working on ideas for the site since it was mentioned as part of Northwich Vision 12 years ago, said they had hoped to start work on site in the summer but the scheme had proved complicated to pull together.
Among the issues to tackle are asbestos that has to be carefully removed from the Regal before it is demolished, decontaminating the ground, which has housed an oil depot in the past, and solving technical issues and planning pre-conditions.
Because of the site’s riverside location, a flood tank will be built underneath the food store which will fill in the event of a flood and drain as the waters recede.
The extra care apartments, which will take shape after Waitrose has been built, will have a high floor level, drawn up with Environment Agency guidance and approval, and a dry access to the road in case of emergency.
The buildings will also have 20m deep foundations to reach firm ground.
Mike said: “All of which makes it a difficult project but there are solutions.”
Asbestos is currently being removed from the Regal by ADM Regeneration, and the building itself will be taken down by the end of January.