A DESIGN team has been appointed to work on plans to regenerate Baron’s Quay, but a leading chartered surveyor thinks the scheme is ‘barking up the wrong tree’. Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) and the Weaver Valley Partnership are leading the project to transform the 25-acre site into a retail and leisure quarter. Lead consultants Rider Levett Bucknall, with architecture and planning support from Broadway Malyan, will be responsible for developing a planning application ready for submission in autumn 2012. Working alongside the design team will be letting and investment agents Lambert Smith Hampton and Tushingham Moore, who have been appointed to identify and engage with potential occupiers of the development.
Clr Herbert Manley, executive member for regeneration, said: “The professional teams we have appointed are highly qualified and experienced in delivering projects of this nature. We are delighted to welcome them on board.
“Work will now begin on developing a detailed scheme, taking into account the feedback we received from the Northwich community to the development framework.
“We will share our plans with local residents before a final scheme is developed for the planning application.”
But John Fifield, founder and director of Fifield Glyn, said he did not think the plans, which include a giant supermarket, are what the town needs.
“I do think the council is barking up the wrong tree,” he said.
“Their proposal at the moment, which I really take issue with, is a proposed 120,000 sq ft supermarket – that equates to two-and-a-half football pitches.
“A store of that size, or anything approaching that size will obliterate Northwich”.
“Northwich is extremely well-blessed with a high percentage of independent retailers for a town of its size but they won’t be able to compete”.
“But they’re what sets Northwich apart, they’re its unique selling point and should be encouraged, not obliterated.”
John Fifield’s vision for Northwich: John suggested a smaller food-only store would be more appropriate for Baron’s Quay, along with shops selling comparison goods, a cultural and lifestyle centre and family housing.
“I’m not against development in Baron’s Quay,” he said.
“Certainly Northwich does need something and Baron’s Quay is the right place to put it.
“What I would be doing is proposing a food-only store of 30 or 40,000 sq ft – we need food to attract people into the town centre – then you surround that with smaller stores which are aimed at comparison goods like fashion or shoes.”
John suggested that current supermarkets should be allowed to expand but that none should be allowed to dominate Northwich. He said the current memorial hall and magistrates’ court site is the wrong location for a cultural centre.
“It’s on the wrong side of Chesterway – I’d put it in Baron’s Quay as it’s another draw in the town centre,” he said.
“The other thing I would put into that area is family housing.
“If you walk up Witton Street at 5pm there’s nothing there, it’s absolutely dead, but you bring in some family housing and suddenly there’s a bit of life going on.”
John, who lives in Acton Bridge, said more time needed to be taken over the plans.
“No-one’s going to build anything there any time soon because of the recession so you don’t need to be in a rush, you need to be planning to get it right,” he said.
“When the upturn comes you need to have all your ducks in a row, it’s a great time now to be planning it and getting the right thing ready.”
He added: “Whatever scheme we have we will have for the next 50 years so taking a couple of years to make sure we get it right, in that timescale, matters not.”
(Taken from The Northwich Gaurdian 24.01.12 written by Gina Bebbington).