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  • Writer's picturechris mcg

There's always something going on at Barons Quay.....Northwich !

Updated: May 7

The sun is shining. so a trip to Northwich seemed an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. When you arrive you are greeted with this poster, its hard to contain the excitement, what could possible be in store over a sunny Easter weekend.

Nothing - is the reality !

No shops, no people and no future if the owners Cheshire West continue down the same route. Barons Quay was £80 million poorly spent and it has now been open since 2016 and the developers are not holding back the tenants. There is no pent up retailer demand.

Cheshire West firstly need to acknowledge defeat and take some creative and visionary advice, not the historic retail reports that have been on the shopping centre gravy train.One glove it would appear does not fit all.

It means moving away from the traditional lettings agents approach and a move towards uses that can drive footfall and attract visitors. This is not the traditional retailers or F & B occupiers, but it needs occupiers that are unique to Northwich which form part of our everyday activities, fulfilling the need of repeat visitors, and hopefully from local traders, embedded in the community.

There are a couple of new occupiers since my last visit, but they look totally out of context in this modernistic vernacular, the units were not built for these type of occupiers and as such look out of place and context and transient, its like wearing your dads old suit, they two just don't fit.

Several tenants have vacated since the scheme opened, and tenants like H & M are reported to have been paid £1 minion as a contribution to their shoplifting with a very low rental, and I guess we will never know the true cost but the council are reported to be paying £40k per week in interest charges on a £62 million loan, plus £27,000 in service costs. This can't carry on, it needs a change of direction to accommodate the paradigm shift in retail and leisure.

Creative and visionary thinking does not mean looking at Altrincham market and trying to create a carbon copy in a town with totally different demographics. Northwich is not a hipster town, so Cheshire west need to tread carefully if that features in their plans, just take a look at newly opened market in Crewe which is declining as it does not appeal to the working class population.

Using the same consultants, which local authorise do tends lead to autopoiesis, replication of ideas. Cheshire west need to understand that a fresh approach is needed with a complete change of emphasis of the scheme. In essence the units are industrial units and could possibly be used as such. It doesn't need such creative mind to find alternative uses fro the large flexible, it not boring units. The excitement and footfall needs to come from the occupiers not the chain stores. The uses can come from a more industrial base such as manufacturing or food production.

With so many craft breweries poping up, a Cheshire based brewery would not be difficult to find, adding the local empathy whilst adding a visual improvement to the glass fascias, lighting up the building at night. The bustle and constant visitors would add the necessary footfall to the rest of the scheme with alfeso seating and an indoor bar. Mosts surrounding towns can boast such breweries, but I would doubt that any have been approached. Such occupies may not get the traditional rates that retail rents were , but in its absence the football would be a massive benefit to the centre, and a first for a blue print for similar centres. .

Sitting beside Hawks head Brewery is an industrial artisan bakery another possible use with a retail shop selling fresh bread cakes and coffee.

In the heart of Northwich, Cheshire, the ambitious Barons Quay development was envisioned as a transformative project set to revitalize the town's economy, enhance its cultural landscape, and elevate its status as a regional hub. However, what began with promise and optimism eventually culminated in disappointment and setbacks, leaving behind a cautionary tale and valuable lessons for urban development initiatives. Let's delve into the story of the failed Barons Quay project, exploring key factors that contributed to its downfall and reflecting on its implications for the future.

Origins of the Barons Quay Project:

Conceived in the early 2010s, the Barons Quay development aimed to rejuvenate Northwich's town centre by introducing a mixed-use complex comprising retail outlets, leisure facilities, residential units, and public spaces. The project promised to attract investment, create jobs, and stimulate economic growth, positioning Northwich as a vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike.

Key Factors Contributing to Failure:

  1. Overambitious Plans: The scale and scope of the Barons Quay development were ambitious, leading to unrealistic expectations and challenges in execution. The project's size may have exceeded the capacity of the local market and strained resources, resulting in delays and cost overruns.

  2. Economic Challenges: The timing of the project coincided with economic uncertainties, including the aftermath of the global financial crisis and shifts in consumer behaviour. Economic downturns can significantly impact consumer spending, investor confidence, and the viability of large-scale developments like Barons Quay.

  3. Retail Sector Decline: The decline of the traditional retail sector, exacerbated by the rise of e-commerce and changing consumer preferences, posed a significant challenge to the success of Barons Quay. Retail tenants faced stiff competition and struggled to attract foot traffic, leading to vacancies and financial strain.

  4. Infrastructure Issues: Delays in infrastructure development, including transportation links and parking facilities, hindered accessibility and convenience for visitors to Barons Quay. Insufficient planning and coordination may have undermined the project's appeal and usability, limiting its attractiveness to stakeholders.

Lessons Learned and Future Perspectives:

  1. Realistic Planning: Future urban development initiatives must prioritize realistic planning and feasibility assessments to ensure projects align with market demand, economic conditions, and community needs. Overambitious plans can lead to unsustainable outcomes and wasted resources.

  2. Diversification and Adaptation: Embracing diversification and adaptability is essential for resilience in the face of economic uncertainties and shifting market dynamics. Mixed-use developments should incorporate flexible spaces and amenities that can evolve to meet changing demands over time.

  3. Community Engagement: Meaningful engagement with the local community and stakeholders is critical for the success of urban development projects. By fostering transparency, collaboration, and inclusivity, developers can gain valuable insights, build trust, and foster support for their initiatives.

  4. Long-Term Vision: Sustainable urban development requires a long-term vision that prioritizes social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Balancing short-term gains with the needs of future generations ensures that projects contribute positively to the well-being of communities over time.


The story of the failed Barons Quay development in Northwich serves as a reminder of the complexities and challenges inherent in urban revitalization projects. While the project's demise may evoke disappointment, it also offers valuable lessons and opportunities for reflection. By learning from past mistakes, embracing resilience, and prioritizing community-centric approaches, we can chart a more sustainable and inclusive path forward for urban development initiatives, ensuring that they contribute positively to the vitality and prosperity of our towns and cities.

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