The private sector needs a united voice, otherwise opportunities to shape the future of Chester could be missed, writes Tim Kenney of Kenneymoore.
If you believe in something badly enough, you can make a difference. My adopted home city of Chester is the most fantastic place, but like every other UK city, the ravages of a declining retail market, pressure from competing out of town schemes, serious anti-social behaviour and council cost cutting have all bitten hard.
Last year, we created an opportunity to make that difference with #NorthgateRemastered – an open letter with more than 120 signatures, three minutes of Full Council fame, meetings with the ‘top brass’ at Cheshire West & Chester Council and hundreds of hours of time, all in order to persuade CWAC to change tack on the Northgate scheme before it was too late.
It worked: Northgate has a new architect, and the first phase has been substantially remodelled, yet retaining the original pre-lets.
A state-of-the- art ‘anchor tenant’ car park will cater for the rapidly changing face of car borne transport, and in two years’ time the first phase will consolidate Northgate as a safe, fun, go-to part of the city, with a market to die for, a new cinema, and a new open square free of traffic for events and culture.
The big outstanding questions however, are what to do with the rest of the site, and how to go about creating a sustainable and deliverable urban regeneration project in the heart of the city.
All of the site is effectively under council control, but surely they will need the support, guidance and involvement of us – that’s all of us – to help create and deliver the vision for this part of the city.
How exactly do we in the private sector do that? Chester has a BID, but its focus isn’t on Northgate, we have the Chester Growth Partnership, but its covert operating style doesn’t engage or openly harvest the available skillsets around the city.
We can’t apportion all the blame on CWaC for not engaging with the private sector if we can’t present ourselves as a co-ordinated structure so that they can engage, harvest our opinions, and work with us.
We have an opportunity to make a difference, the council leaders are listening, and we have only ourselves to blame if we don’t take this opportunity to help create Chester of the future.