21 March 2022 – The Chester Civic Trust which celebrates its 62nd year this year, has given its verdict on the best examples of new development, renovation of existing buildings and community projects in its annual Good, Bad and Ugly awards for the City.

Now in its 16th year, the awards highlight Chester’s buildings, places, spaces and projects in an alternative ‘New Year Honours list’.

Peter Hadfield, chairman of the judging panel, said: “These annual awards are based on nominations from our members. They aim to recognise the best changes to the Chester property scene in the past year. We hope they will encourage higher standards of design and maintenance in our public realm.” He added; “As always, I would like to thank my fellow Judges for their time and commitment in assessing the nominations and providing intelligent and well considered feedback.”

Chair’s Special Award 2022 went to the Chester and Merseyside Branch of the Inland Waterways Association and John Herson, for their involvement in the Designation of Chester as the first Canal and River System Heritage Port.

The judges said: “This is the first in the country and is recognised by the Maritime Heritage Trust, National Historic Ships and European Maritime Heritage. We hope that this designation will raise the profile of a rather unappreciated part of Chester, its ‘Old Port’ area. The project was initiated by the Chester and Merseyside branch of the Inland Waterways Association and supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council and Chester Civic Trust.”

The Good Award to The Leadworks

The judges said; “The new building has maintained clear association with Chester’s canal-side industrial heritage and its iconic, historic and important Shot Tower. The new apartments have been built with sympathetic materials and are a stylish modern addition to the cityscape.

“We are, however, disappointed with the rather barren courtyard and hope this will develop into a more welcoming space in the future. The ‘Mr Walker’ statue is an interesting piece of public art but seems rather lost behind parked cars and could do with an explanatory plaque.”

The Good – Restoration of St John’s Ruins

Another project with several nominations. The judges said; “St John’s Church has a long history and has been associated with significant events down the centuries. Its ruins form an important picturesque aspect from Grosvenor Park. The ruins also have the curiosity of a coffin mounted vertically with the inscription ‘dust to dust’, which should intrigue passers-by and be a talking point for tour guides. In recent years the ruins have become overgrown , the masonry has weathered, and the site looked unkempt and neglected. Over 2021 the ruins have been restored, the red sandstone masonry has been cleared of vegetation and repaired but retains a picturesque presence and no longer looks neglected. The coffin is once again prominent and old interpretation panels have been spruced-up so that they are more legible and look smart.”

The Good – Monument Place, Farndon

The judges said: “This Natural Burial Ground at Farndon displays a nice mix of cultural and natural heritage. It has a well-designed car park, an attractive oak barn for ceremonies and shelter, tree and hedge planting. The inspired wildflower planting is a delight. The fantastic setting that enhances Barnston Monument and helps to address habitat loss and pollinator decline.”

The Good – NatWest Bank: Eastgate Street

The judges said: “Last year in the Bad/Ugly category, the continuing poor maintenance of City Centre buildings was mentioned. It is therefore good to see the refurbished Frontages in Eastgate Street and St. Werburgh Street. In recent years NatWest Bank in Eastgate Street had been looking tired and somewhat neglected. The refurbishment has done it justice’ vegetation has been cleared and the stonework cleaned. The signage is more discreet and the netting to protect it from pigeons is light coloured so barely noticeable to passers-by. Arguably, it is what a bank should look like. This should be an example for other properties in the city to follow!”

The Good – Commended – The Raven: Farndon

The judges said; “The Raven (formerly The Farndon) was in poor condition and deteriorating but is now an attractive and inviting building significantly improving the street scene in the village.

The Good – Commended – Rake Hall: Little Stanney

The judges said; “Rake Hall, a Grade ll listed building, former home of the Bunbury family, has been restored to a high standard and opened as a Brunning and Price gastropub in December 2021. The few original features, including a beautiful oriel window, have been retained and enhanced. The environment improvements including the restoration of the duck pond are impressive.”

The Good – Commended – The Town Hall “Parklet”

The judges said; “The Town Hall Parklet comprising tables and seating together with planters was funded through the government’s Containment Outbreak Management Fund (COMF); it encouraged people to use the space when being outdoors was deemed safer. We hope this will return in the Spring.”

The Bad and Ugly Awards

There were five awards in Pepper Street, the judges said: “It must surely be a contender for the most unprepossessing street in the City centre!” And two others:

1 – The Boujee Restaurant

The judges said: “The Boujee Restaurant with its garish pink frontage is inappropriate for its surroundings, a conservation area in the centre of Chester next to the dignified classical façade of a listed building.”

2 – The rear of the Grosvenor Precinct

The judges said: “The rear of the Grosvenor Precinct now housing the Leonardo Hotel was mentioned last year but we considered it worth including again. The appearance of the hotel converted from an office building is so banal that it is not certain that the work is completed. Many 1960’s and 70’s developments in Chester would benefit from a new facade treatment so that they enhance rather than harm the setting of the surrounding historic buildings, but this is a very poor example. Higher standards of design and implementation should be required.”

3 – The walkway from the Walls to the multi-storey car park

The judges said: “This is poorly maintained and is desperately in need of a coat of paint.”

4 – Off-the-Wall

The judges said: “This has leaking gutters and drainpipes, has vegetation growing out of the brickwork and roof, and has windows in a poor and rotten state. Indeed, some are already boarded up.”

5 – Neglect of the South East Angle Tower and Newgate

The judges said: “The Walls are a key attraction and of historic importance and the lack of maintenance sends a very bad message to both visitors and residents.”

The Bad and Ugly – Former Debenhams 1828 Building

The judges said: “This is classical frontage (only part of the former shop) occupies a prime location on Eastgate Street and has been in a poor state for some time. The stucco is breaking up and falling off, the paintwork flaking and discoloured, and vegetation is growing out of it. It is a shabby eyesore in the centre of Chester’s main thoroughfare.

The Bad and Ugly – Poor repairs to paving

The judges said: “The inappropriate use of tarmac to repair areas of stone paving, notably where security bollards have been installed, was considered both Bad and Ugly.”