AMBITIOUS plans to create a huge new business quarter in Chester city centre have been heavily criticised.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) believes the developer-led scheme has the potential to deliver thousands of jobs and provide a major boost to the economy.
But critics have described the designs as “poor and awkward” and dubbed the current proposals as a “missed opportunity”.
Developers claim the Chester Central Business Quarter, which would be built in phases over 15 years near Chester Railway Station, could generate more than 3,000 jobs in total.
Muse Developments, who are leading the scheme in partnership with CWaC, have applied for full planning permission for phase one which includes a new public gateway and offices.
They have also submitted an outline masterplan for the rest of the site which would be a mixed-use scheme with 200 apartments, restaurants, cafes and bars.
But Chester Civic Trust, Chester Archaelogical Society and the council’s own conservation officer have criticised the plans.
John Healey, conservation officer for CWaC, a consultant on all major council schemes, has said he finds the current plans “difficult to support”.
He has raised numerous concerns including the planned layout, the impact on views of the city and the scale of the new building.
Andrew Parnell, from Chester Civic Trust, states: “The proposed scale and layout of the business quarter is a missed opportunity to create a high quality and attractive new urban area within the city.
“It is an overdevelopment of the site and is an awkward and illegible layout with poor visual and pedestrian links between the station and canal and little concern for the design and layout of existing and proposed adjoining developments and listed buildings.”
Concerns have also been raised by Peter Carrington from Chester Archaelogical Society.
He described the planned offices as “unsympathetic” and has called on Muse Developments to reconsider the designs.
Integral to Chester’s One City Plan, the business quarter covers the former Lloyds Banking Group site, the redevelopment of the former leadworks and Shot Tower and the new Waitrose supermarket in Boughton.
Professor Steven Broomhead, chairman of Chester Renaissance, has urged the city to get behind the proposals.
He said the development was hugely important to the future economic growth of both Cheshire and West Cheshire.
“The scheme is critical to achieving a step change in the commercial position of Chester and when complete it will create one of the most sustainable and distinctive business locations in the region,” he states.
“I would like to encourage the city to fully support these exciting plans and this very welcome investment into growing Chester’s future economy.”
CWaC’s influential strategic planning committee will make the final decision on the planning applications, possibly when members meet on March 21.
Cllr David Robinson, whose ward includes the development site, said: “In principle, clearly I support the application because there are jobs being created.
“But there are details that I and residents, particularly those in Princes Avenue and Queens Avenue, are concerned about.
“In my view the designs are massively better than what was proposed for the Shot Tower site.
“I have organised two public meetings where I have got the developers and the council to do a presentation on the plans.
“I have got the residents involved and in principle I am supportive but there are details that need improvement.”
The Shot Tower site plans came under fire as part of the BBC’s The Planners TV series.
The controversial plans are set to be discussed at a planning committee meeting at a date yet to be fixed.