Dec 1 2011 by David Holmes, Chester Chronicle
THE burnt-out shell of Chester Enterprise Centre remains an eyesore exactly one year since the fierce blaze.
Cheshire West and Chester Council says its building, which housed 50 small businesses in Hoole, will be demolished and won’t reopen as an enterprise centre although there is no decision over its future.
However, the site is labelled as ‘outer city centre parking’ in the draft One City Plan for Chester.
And Network Rail told the Chronicle that within days of the accidental fire officers from the council and Chester Renaissance were informally suggesting the site as an alternative location for its proposed multi-storey car park but this is flatly denied.
Helen Conway, who relocated her Bodywork-Pilates business to Victoria Road, Chester, suspects the council now wants to sell the land for residential development.
She said: “Personally I think they will sell it for housing. I’m sure ultimately that’s what they are going to do.”
She said her business was thriving at the new location but it was a shame if the enterprise centre was not replaced because it had offered low rent and rates in comparison with the commercial sector.
Gaynor Davies, a director of Commonhall Street-based Chester Travel Connection, recalled the blaze on December 2.
She said: “Like most people, we were devastated. But we relocated to my house and we notified existing clients within 12 hours because the database was backed up at head office. We didn’t move into here until April 12. It took time to find new premises but we are doing extremely well and have taken on staff since we moved.”
Gaynor said the vast majority of businesses survived the fire, with several located at Redhill House in Saltney.
But some are still seeking closure in the form of answers from the council about, for example, why there was no sprinkler system or automatic fire alarm linked to the fire service.
Former tenants are due to meet up for a drink to mark the first anniversary of the blaze.
Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “No decision has yet been made on the future of the enterprise centre site.
“The executive has agreed to demolish the fire-damaged building and it is likely that this decision will be implemented in the near future.”
The council has decided the site will not be reopened as an enterprise centre.
“The great majority of the former tenants have now been satisfactorily relocated and the demand for such units, in the current financial climate, is accommodated through the university’s Riverside Innovation Centre and the commercial offer,” added Mr Callister.
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