CHESHIRE West and Chester Council, together with its partners, has taken possession of a new transformational £16m public services hub to complete the first phase of redevelopment in Ellesmere Port town centre.
The building, named The Portal, was designed by leading independent property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Pick Everard. The three-storey building provides a range of services to the public from several different agencies, as well as providing accommodation that meets the demands of the council’s modern workforce strategy.
The new space will be home for 580 staff employed by the council, DWP and other service providers. The scheme also incorporated a new bus facility and extensive public realm works to improve transport links and facilities for the public.
Pick Everard – operating under Perfect Circle’s unique collaboration – was appointed to provide architecture, interior design and landscape services through SCAPE’s Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) framework.
Andy Robinson, director at Pick Everard, said: “Cheshire West and Chester Council has a fantastic new facility in the heart of Ellesmere Port. We promised to deliver a scheme that places greater emphasis on the use of the space and The Portal’s 4,000 square metres and surrounding external areas truly accomplish this.
“Value for money is essential for our public sector clients and this has been achieved to great effect on this project. Through close collaboration and consultancy, we’ve been able to ensure that the completed scheme represents the priorities identified by the council.”
The Portal is a single shared hub that facilitates agile working, therefore reducing the demand for space and enabling the council and other agencies to consolidate their presence into a smaller footprint. As a result of this, money is being saved and carbon emissions are being reduced while also providing a much-improved work environment.
With the intention to improve access to public services and bring all the disparate arms and services of local government into a single shared hub, The Portal is a regeneration project that serves its practical purpose and acts as the catalyst for regeneration in the town.
Importantly, the building is designed to improve the customer experience enable them to access a wider range of services in one location. This includes employment, skills and learning, welfare and benefits support, advice and information, community safety and prevention, health and well-being and housing support.
The building contains public art that is on permanent display. Consultation with the local community during the design stage led to creations that represent the purpose of the space, which has been developed in the interest of the local area and not only those who use the on-site facilities.
Civic Way was a critical element of the scheme. Road priorities have changed with Civic Way now only accessible to buses and service vehicles, reducing traffic on a previously busy thoroughfare. The area is now a much more pedestrian friendly environment as a result of the careful public realm design its relationship with the new bus facility. The widening of the street to allow for bus lay-bys and new bus stands enabled the opportunity to relocate the old poor quality bus interchange and create space for The Portal.
Public realm improvements did not stop with Civic Way. The Port Arcade entrance from Wellington Road has been made more pedestrian friendly, with accessibility and enjoyment of the space receiving attention due to the high footfall.
Councillor Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “The opening of The Portal is an exciting moment for the community as it is providing a versatile building for a range of stakeholders.
“The project team has completed a scheme to be proud of following an important consultation process and we can’t wait to share the newly improved space with the people of Ellesmere Port.”
The importance of the project to the local workforce and wider community meant that public engagement was maintained throughout. To create learning opportunities, contractor Vinci Construction engaged with The West Cheshire College to make site visits and construction talks a possibility for students.
David Nisbet, partner at Pick Everard, said: “We’re pleased to have supported Cheshire West and Chester Council on the development of The Portal, as it adopts the government’s One Public Estate programme.
“The Portal marks another project within our portfolio that has achieved BREEAM Very Good certification, proving the growing opportunity for sustainable solutions in towns likes Ellesmere Port that are undergoing regeneration.”
For more information on Pick Everard, visit www.pickeverard.co.uk/