FURIOUS Lib Dem leaders are due to launch an attack on Town Hall Tories this evening (November 26).
Their rage centres on the future of the near half billion pound Northgate Development now postponed until 2012.
A motion is to be raised by former council leader Paul Roberts (Farndon) and deputy leader of the Lib Dem group on the shadow Cheshire West and Chester Council Bob Thompson, who represents Hoole All Saints.
They are due to call on the full council to say it is appalled “by the disastrous impact on Chester's economy of the loss of the Northgate Development”.
They are demanding a formal apology “from those leading members of the current administration whose meddling in the original scheme caused the delays which meant it became caught up by the credit crunch”.
The Lib Dems believe there should be an open competition for developers to put forward new plans to regenerate the Northgate area with current developers ING eligible to apply but without preferential treatment.
They are also calling for an “urgent investigation” into the options for securing attractive performing arts facilities in the city including the viability of reopening the Gateway Theatre.
A report to a meeting of the Tory dominated executive reveals that number crunchers at ING have decided the long awaited scheme is no longer viable and should be reviewed.
Development portfolio holder Cllr Stuart Parker (Con, Christleton) says the council has been working closely with ING.
A “significant financial gap” has emerged in the profitability of the scheme.
This has been accepted by the council's own advisers and by other potential financial backers.
“No proposals have yet been submitted by either ING or their potential funding partners but we need to enter a dialogue shortly if we are going to advance the programme,” says Cllr Parker.
A number of “high calibre” financial backers have been identified and Cllr Parker says it is intended to reveal the new partner next month (December).
He describes ING as “one of the world's major property developers” and believes it has the “resources and acumen” to deliver the scheme.
The company's main board has released capital to ensure work can continue on the Northgate proposals and Cllr Parker says the developers “remain committed to Chester despite the credit crunch”.
ING has been offered 10bn Euros by the Dutch government, the executive heard and commentators have pointed out the company has a massive 100bn Euros worth of untapped reserves.
The council's agents believe Chester “is in the best position possible” compared with other schemes in the UK, all of which have been affected by the credit crunch.
Cllr Parker argues that continuing to work with ING is the most effective way of delivering the development.