DELIVER the resurrected Northgate Development or the decline of Chester will continue - that’s the stark warning issued to Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).
Once ranked as the fifth best shopping destination in the UK, the city has slumped down the retail rankings over the past 10 years and now ranks 59th – below Crawley, Doncaster and Tunbridge Wells.
London-based consultants CACI have warned Chester is losing ground on rival cities and believe the Northgate Development would turn around the city’s fortunes.
In 2000, ING Real Estate and the former Chester City Council unveiled ambitious £460 million plans to regenerate the city centre but the scheme failed to get off the ground.
CWaC ditched ING last year having grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and unveiled its own plan to boost trade and make the city centre more vibrant.
New shops, restaurants and cafes are included in the £300m masterplan along with an eight-screen cinema and replacement market near the proposed theatre and library.
There would be almost 1,000 parking spaces and the bus exchange would be relocated to Gorse Stacks – although drop-off points would be provided near the new market.
Cllr Herbert Manley, CWaC executive member for growth and innovation, said: “The inescapable message is we must develop or run the risk of the further decline of Chester as a retail centre.
“Not only that but we must provide the right kind and blend of accommodation to attract prime retailers that will want to be part of a quality regional centre, together with the culture that will persuade our visitors to stay longer.
When the revised masterplan unveiled, CWaC hailed the scheme as having the potential to create more than 1,600 jobs, boost spending by £143m and bring in an extra £8m in business rates.
CACI believe that delivering the entire scheme would “significantly” increase spending and begin moving Chester back up the retail rankings.
“The overriding message is that residential retail expenditure in Chester city centre will continue to decline without a retail-led development with sufficient critical mass, given strong competition across the North West region from both in-town and out-of-town centres,” states the report.
Following an extensive public consultation, the new masterplan has now been recommended for formal approval in a special council meeting on Tuesday, September 10.
Councillors are asked to give full backing for the scheme and to agree to bringing in a development and design team to get concept plans for the development to planning application stage by spring 2015.
Julie Gill, director of resources, and Charlie Seward, regeneration and culture, believe that Chester remains attractive to developers despite difficult market conditions.
l What do you think of the proposals for the Northgate Development? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.