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Getting Building Fund Case Study: Chester Drainage Tunnel

Case Study Getting Building Fund Cheshire West and Chester 11/04/2022

Over £5m from the LEP's Getting Building Fund

The LEP was awarded £15.5m from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, a £900 million fund designed to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country. The fund supports the delivery of shovel-ready infrastructure projects to boost economic growth, and fuel local recovery and jobs.

The £15.5m was approved for three projects:

  • Chester Drainage Tunnel
  • Warrington Bus Depot
  • Alderley Park Validation Centre of Excellence

As part of the Getting Building Fund, Cheshire and Warrington LEP provided £5.225m towards the new Chester drainage tunnel. The total cost of the project is c. £66m.

While the direct outputs from the project are understandably low due to the nature of the project the indirect benefits will be:

9,334 sq m commercial floorspace including a cinema (2,544 sq m), mixed retail and leisure provision, including a new market (5,923 sq m) and office (867 sq m) provision
55 hectare of new public realm and event space
£72 million of total capital investment
752 gross person years of construction employment
338 gross jobs created and safeguarded
£16.2 million of gross GVA per annum


Work on the tunnel has now completed, the tunnel forms a critical part of delivering Phase 1 of the Northgate scheme in the centre of Chester and will also enable other regeneration schemes to be developed. The project is an essential element to support the development of the £70m Northgate scheme which will will include an arched arcade from the former library frontage into a new public square, an indoor market hall – relocated from the Forum, a six screen cinema, cafes and restaurants, co-working office spaces and a multi-storey car park.

The new drain will replace a combined sewer system that was at capacity and runs south along St. Martin’s Way, Nicholas Street, Grosvenor Road and via Castle Drive to a new outfall on banks of the River Dee. It is almost one km in length, over one metre in diameter and required eight access shafts spaced along the route, each seven metres wide and up to twelve metres deep. In total, more than two thousand, six hundred cubic metres of soil and rock were excavated to form the tunnel.

The new drain will also result in significant environmental protections and benefits; it will reduce flooding and drain bursts in the city centre; reduce the volume of water requiring sewage treatment; help cut energy use; and reduce untreated sewage discharges into the River Dee during heavy rainfall when the current network is already at capacity.

Over ninety-nine percent of the excavations from the new drainage tunnel have been recovered or recycled, in line with the wider environmental strategy for the Northgate development. In addition, over two hundred tonnes of sand excavated from the tunnel were donated to Chester Zoo by the Council in partnership with its contractor VINCI Construction UK and has been used in the zoo’s black rhino and painted dog habitats.

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Growth, Economy and Regeneration, said:

“I would like to thank everyone in Chester who has been impacted by these works for their patience and understanding; I recognise that at times the works have caused frustration, but I hope residents have come to understand the significant economic, social and environmental benefits of constructing the new drain, which has been the biggest infrastructure project in our city for over fifty years. 

“Completing the new drain has been a massive undertaking and it has required expertise from many contractors working in partnership to assist us. I would also like to thank them for all their hard work and commitment to this complex project.”

Trevor Brocklebank, Deputy Chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP and Chair of Marketing Cheshire said:

“This project is an important step in Chester’s economic recovery from the pandemic and I am pleased to see that it has now been completed.

“We have a vision for Cheshire and Warrington to be the healthiest, most sustainable and growing economy in the UK and for this to happen major developments have to be supported by the necessary infrastructure. 

“Now, we can look forward to Northgate opening later this year. This is a really exciting time for Chester and through our work supporting the Destination Chester network we look forward to enjoying the benefits this investment will bring to residents, businesses and visitors.”

Find out more about the Getting Building Fund here