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City centre partners collaborate on a new 'vision' for Chester

Chester Cheshire West and Chester 01/04/2021

The study will look at trends and market opportunities

City living, health and education facilities and how to attract graduates and young people to live and work here. These are just some of the ideas on the table as part of a new 'vision' for Chester city centre, which seeks to reimagine the iconic destination for the post-lockdown environment.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is working with the Chester Growth Partnership and commercial property specialists CBRE to identify new uses and investment opportunities for the city centre.

The study, which will take place until May, will look at national trends and market opportunities. The end product will be a bespoke solution for the future of the city centre economy.

Peter Carstensen, chair of the Chester Growth Partnership said: "I am delighted with the appointment of CBRE as the track record, depth of experience and significant local knowledge of their project team make them ideally positioned to carry out  this important piece  of work for the future of Chester. I am looking forward to working with the CBRE team."

As with many town and city centres across the country, the changing face of retail and the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic has left vacant units in Chester.

Central to this is the impending closure of the Debenhams (Browns of Chester) building along with other vacant units in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.

The scope of the project will include: 

  • Options for the Debenhams store.
  • Analysis of the options for a wider reimagined retail and leisure core including the Grosvenor shopping centre and vacant units in the main retail streets.
  • The impact of the changes and proposed options on other areas of the city core including, the Cathedral/Northgate/Storyhouse area.
  • Generating both social and commercial benefit.
  • Considering new opportunities for city living, education and health facilities opportunities for retaining and attracting young people in the city including graduates.
  • Creating a sustainable environment that enables investment.
  • The future direction on central government policy e.g., on levelling-up, permitted development, business rates and building & infrastructure funding.

Gemma Davies, the Council's Director Housing and Economy explained: "There is no doubt city and town centres across the country were experiencing challenges before the pandemic and the past year has added to those challenges.

"There is already a lot of things happening in the city. The past year has seen progress with the Northgate project, and the City Gateway project in the area around Chester Station.

"Whilst the country has sadly lost some of the best-known high street names, we have also witnessed an increase in smaller independent businesses, and we have seen an increasing number of enquiries for start-up businesses, which is really positive.

"We now want to enhance the work already being done to refresh the One City Plan, Chester's 15-year development plan, and this piece of focused work will support and complement the refresh that has been getting some fantastic engagement over the last few months.

"We will bring together property owners, agents and other stakeholders to work collaboratively on a strategy for long term growth in the city centre."

Chester is preparing for the re-opening of shops and attractions starting with increased street cleaning this week. Support and workshops have been offered to businesses to manage a safe re-opening and a range of events are being planned by Destination Chester.

Carl Critchlow, Chester Bid Manager said: "The high street has been evolving for some time now, so it is crucial that Chester stays ahead of the curve and remains attractive to businesses, visitors and residents. Even through the pandemic we have seen a significant number of new businesses open in the city demonstrating Chester’s continued appeal, this project will capitalise on this interest by blending expert local knowledge with commercial know-how to explore new ways to re-imagine our city centre."