TOWNSFOLK have started to have their say on the masterplan designed to kickstart the regeneration of Northwich.
Proposals for Baron’s Quay have been officially launched and members of the public have until the end of August to view the plans and say what they think.
The main concerns at the launch, which drew almost 100 people, included roads and parking, the timescale of the project, the design of new buildings, how the scheme would be funded and how it would make the most of tourism.
Geoff Hope-Terry, chairman of the Weaver Valley Partnership, explained that Northwich has a catchment area of 71,000 residents, which is 20 per cent of the population of west Cheshire.
He said that an independent retail summary by White Young Green showed that Northwich is one of few towns in Cheshire with an unmet demand from shoppers, for food as well as non-food shopping.
“We’re not doing as much trading as we should be and could be,” he said.
“This is a shame but it’s also an opportunity.”
The masterplan for Baron’s Quay includes 118,000 sq ft of food retail and 205,000 sq ft of non-food retail, with 45,000 sq ft of cafes and restaurants and 70,000 sq ft set aside for cinema and 10-pin bowling.
Car parking would be on the roof of the new supermarket, with 1,180 spaces proposed.
Mr Hope-Terry said: “The important thing for me is that we’ve done our sums and this scheme is deliverable financially but at the same time this is a genuine engagement exercise and I want to hear not just what you think today but what everyone in town thinks.”
The exhibition of draft plans is available at the memorial hall and the information centre until the end of August.
The Guardian’s website includes a new ‘Baron’s Quay’ section containing all our stories so far on the new proposals.
A selection of questions and issues put to the panel, made up of Geoff Hope-Terry, chairman of the Weaver Valley Partnership Board, Catherine Fox, Weaver Valley project manager and Cliff Mallows, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s head of regeneration.
ROADS, PARKING AND MOORING
Residents asked whether a park and ride scheme could be considered and whether there had been any thought given to public transport as the Chesterway bus station is a distance from Baron’s Quay.
They also said more moorings were needed along town centre waterways.
The panel said the masterplan is at an early stage and these issues could be considered in the future.
The panel was also asked what plans could be put in place for the Thundersprint, which is held annually on Leicester Street car park but would become homeless in the redevelopment plans.
Mr Hope-Terry said: “Do people want to retain the Thundersprint or have shopping and a cinema? Do people want the Thundersprint at the expense of other development that could come into town?”
The panel was asked about the timeframe for the project but were reluctant to give a concrete date.
When pushed to give his best-informed guess if everything went according to plan, Mr Hope-Terry said: “It will be 2015 before you and I can sit by the river and have a coffee.”
DESIGN Residents were keen to emphasise that they want any new buildings to be in keeping with the historic feel of Northwich.
One man said: “We don’t really want another concrete jungle in Northwich.”
Mr Hope-Terry said: “We don’t want just blocks.
“We’re looking for modern, contemporary, quality design.
“The phrase I use is that we should be building tomorrow’s listed buildings today, not rebuilding yesterday’s listed buildings.”
The panel was asked if there was any money to do the scheme and whether any retailers want to come to Northwich.
Mr Hope-Terry said that his proposal was for Cheshire West and Chester Council to run the scheme so that any profit can be reinvested in town.
He said this was a risk when dealing with public money and explained that break-points would be included in the project to give the council chance to bring in a partner if necessary.
VISITORS AND HOTEL
People were worried that there has not been enough emphasis placed on tourism in the new plans and raised the issue that Northwich does not have a hotel in its centre.
Mr Hope-Terry said that a hotel was an example of how Baron’s Quay can be used as a catalyst.
He said: “With a scheme like this in my back pocket I can say ’look what we’re doing in Northwich, you can be a part of it’.
“You’ve got to have something to sell and this is the first part of that.”
HAVE YOUR SAY:
The Guardian has joined forces with Weaver Valley Partnership to collect people’s views on the proposed redevelopment of Baron’s Quay.
We’ve made it as simple as possible for people to have their say. Comments can be posted on our website or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would prefer to write in, send your comments to Catherine Fox, Weaver Valley Team Leader, c/o The Information Centre, 1 The Arcade, Northwich, CW9 5AS.