Why is CWaC’s £80m gamble failing?
Sited adjacent to Northwich town centre, the ambitious plan for the regeneration, funded by Cheshire West and Chester with taxpayers’ money, looks worse value every single month.
Two years from opening, many of the lots are still empty and what should have been the jewel in the town is looking like a white elephant. There has been numerous speculative articles asking if Barons Quay can be saved, and M&S gave CWaC’s town centre plans a vote of confidence by announcing that they were quitting the town.
Meanwhile, a BBC radio investigation has compared the bloated Barons Quay development in Northwich, a £80m gamble, with the hugely successful Altrincham schemes which cost a mere £4m. Thirteen miles up the A556, Altrincham have regenerated the town centre with creative and innovative approaches based around their Market Hall. Sale, among others, have expressed an interest in adopting the Altrincham approach. Their success came from within the town; they asked and engaged local traders and local people to design and enact their transformation, and it worked!
Back in Northwich, the council bet tens of millions of taxpayers money on a regeneration project using outdated and unrealistic plans and projections. Criticism was batted away, as councillors in their ivory towers, foisted their vision on a town twenty miles away, without considering what the town needed or wanted.
Last year, property consultants slammed the development, claiming “it should never have been built, the design is poor,” while agents and residents have reported the project as “a failing of the council.” Precious regeneration resources have been squandered on this gamble and, should it fail, it will severely damage confidence in future schemes.
CWaC need to get a grip on the development and work on events and schemes to bring people to the town centre; the old-fashioned identikit plan of just building retail units no longer works – as Altrincham and others have proved. Instead, the council needs to work on innovative and creative approaches, as well as addressing the horrendous traffic problems, disjointed transport offering and car parking charges, if Northwich town centre has a vibrant future.
And most importantly of all, CWaC need to learn to listen to the residents of our town!