Tim Kenney

My Place | Chester

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.

Your Comments

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The Storey House is fantastic. The one bright successful project that came out of the Northgate proposals, which let’s face it has been an embarrassment to Chester to put it mildly. If Chester can rebuild its market and bring it into the 21st century then maybe they can make up for the lost time. The time is certainly right for such a modern market project.
A beautiful Victorian building was demolished behind the bus station to make way for Northgate. If a new market square can be developed here, maybe something can be salvaged from the wreckage and add to the success of the Storey House.

By Roscoe

All totally viable and it would be hard to disagree with the contents. There are several private sector organisations within the City any one of which could organise a carefully co-ordinated workshop for one morning/afternoon/evening to discuss ideas and formulate ideas for the Northgate site. My own view is that a large high density residential scheme would bring people into the city centre which would then help to support some. at least, of the existing shops. Altrnatively, despite the increasing use of the interweb for shopping, there are still people who want to buy goods they can see feel touch the garments/shoes/jewellery. A dedicated fashion centre/shopping centre might be included within part of the site. Could Chester Business Club help to arrange such a gathering? I am willing to help.

By Nigel Bruce

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