HOW do you solve a problem like Winsford Cross?

When Cheshire West and Chester Council bought the site for £19.75 million in February, it became a landlord to top high street brands like Argos, Dorothy Perkins and New Look.

But it also took on an ageing shopping centre in need of some long-overdue care and attention.

Perran Baragwanath, mid Cheshire programme manager at CWAC, told the Guardian: “When we took over it was really a case of catching up and putting the right things in place.

“JLL was appointed to manage the site in March, and we are making sure that they are doing all the repair works that will help to bring the site up to date – as should have been done in the past.

“And we are talking to traders, finding out what they think needs to be done and making sure the work that is done will make a difference for them.”

Just last week as the Guardian took a look around Winsford Cross with the team responsible for its overhaul, workers were up on the roof making important repairs.


It is one of the key areas for improvement which traders have highlighted to the council – along with fixing the shopping centre’s windows, installing a new CCTV system to make shoppers feel safer, and introducing footfall counters to see how many people pass through Winsford Cross, in order to attract new businesses.

The council says that opening the centre’s toilets is not at the top of the to-do list, despite repeated calls from residents and town councillors, because retailers want to make sure all attempts to stop possible anti-social behaviour at the loos are made first.

A facelift for the 1960s-built centre is also on the cards, with the council keen to find a way of opening up the town centre so it is visible from the A54 – and the view from the recently-demolished Queens Parade provides a glimpse into how that could eventually look.


Cllr Brian Clarke, Labour member for Winsford Wharton, is CWAC cabinet member for infrastructure and economic development.

“The town centre has got to look aesthetically pleasing,” he said.

“That is why we are working around the war memorial to make that the heart of the town centre.”

But that work is easier said than done – Perran admits that CWAC needs to assess the ‘knock-on effect’ that any physical changes to Winsford Cross would make on other parts of the town centre and its traders – which need to continue using the service areas that currently face passers-by.

The council is also keen to make sure any new development in the area fits in with older nearby buildings, such as the Brunner Guildhall.


Lisa Harris, director of place strategy, added: “There are some elements of the town centre that we are not making the most of.

“Putting that civic heart back into town is the thing that most people are passionate about and it is a sensitive subject. We need to make sure that we get it right.”

That is the main issue which CWAC will look to address in its next masterplan for Winsford Cross, which is set to go to the public for consultation in February, before consultants Montagu Evans produce a final report next spring.

Winsford Cross currently has 74 units, and in light of the current retail climate – with major brands like Poundworld, Toys R’ Us and Maplin closing for good this year – CWAC accepts that this number could be reduced, as it looks to find other ways of bringing footfall to the town.

The market, which officers feel is currently tucked away out of sight, could become a more prominent feature – following on from this year’s success at Chester Market.


CWAC is also looking to improve walkways and public realm through the shopping centre, as well as finding ways to keep the nearby library’s visitors in the town centre.

The council expects the population of Winsford to continue to grow – with major housing developments springing up across town.

Meanwhile, half of CWAC’s employees currently based at HQ in Chester will move to Wyvern House next year, and both Winsford Industrial Estate and Warrington and Vale Royal College’s Weaver Street campus are set to grow over the next few years.

The biggest challenge for CWAC is to bring those potential new customers into the town centre, and keep them coming back for more.

Lisa said: “The early signs of confidence are already there. We have had a business relocate into Winsford Cross, with a larger unit, and they are already seeing trading benefits.”


Winsford Cross is just one aspect of the council’s ‘whole place programme’ for the town – which also includes the expansion of Winsford Industrial Estate, the renovation of Town Park and the new public sector hub at Wyvern House.

The aim is to create more opportunities for Winsford’s residents and unlock the town’s economic potential – and the redevelopment of the town centre is a key cog in that wheel.

Perran added: “If we can get that endgame right and say that this is what we are working towards, then it will keep people’s faith.”