Proposals to demolish an office building next to Chester’s Northgate Arena and construct a 150-bedroom student scheme look set to be given the green light after developers argued that retaining the property for employment use would not be commercially viable.
Cheshire West & Chester Council’s planning committee is due to discuss a full planning application by a joint venture between student development specialist Primus Property Group and developer Property Alliance Group on Tuesday (6 December 2016).
The application involves demolishing the two-storey Oakbase House on Trafford Street, just to the north of the city centre between the University of Chester and the city’s railway station, and building 150 studio bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, kitchen facilities, a living area and a working area.
The proposed scheme also features communal facilities including a reception area, a cycle store, a laundry room and a bin store. It has been designed by Tim Groom Architects.
Oakbase House, which was originally built as a munitions factory during the war, currently offers 8,580 sq ft of office space.
According to a report by planning officers, the developers recently sought advice on the cost of bringing up the existing office building to a higher specification. This would involve renewing the roof as well as refitting work and upgrading services.
It added: “The approximate cost of works to secure a rental value of £8 per sq ft exceeds £1m. On this basis, the applicant has stated that it would not be commercially viable to continue the premises in its current use, especially taking on board any lead in time to getting interested tenants.
“The council’s investment and development surveyor has assessed the information submitted and considers that it would be difficult to secure tenants for the building in its current form because of its current condition. Assuming the building is refurbished to a reasonable standard, the application of £8 per sq ft overall for this type of office space, reflecting its location, size and type is considered a reasonable benchmark.
“On this basis, the length of time it would take to recoup an investment of £1.13m in the building (to bring it up to a reasonable standard) is considered to make the scheme unviable. As such, it is considered that a reasonable case has been put forward to demonstrate that the use of the premises for employment is not commercially viable.”
The report recommends that the proposed scheme should be approved by councillors.