CONSTRUCTION of the £15m Chester City Council headquarters is set for May next year if all goes to plan.
The council's planning board voted 9-3 in favour of the scheme, which will create modern city council headquarters to replace the Forum offices set to be demolished as part of the Northgate development.
Northgate Limited Partnership gained detailed planning consent for the Ian Simpson-designed 8,500 sq m (91,494 sq ft) building proposed for the Gorse Stacks site, just outside Chester's city walls.
The decision on the scheme, fully funded by developer ING Real Estate Development UK, was announced on Wednesday following a full Chester City Council planning board meeting.
The Gorse Stacks site is currently an open-air car park.
The building, which has courted controversy since it was revealed late last year, will house all the council's functions in a single location for the council and the public. The details include a meeting room on each floor and public restaurant at street level, as well as parking facilities at basement level.
The building is part of the £283m Northgate development that will in part be on the council's existing 1970s offices in the Forum shopping centre.
The Northgate scheme, due for completion in 2008, also includes 41,000 sq m (440,000 sq ft) of new shopping and leisure facilities, a performing arts centre, library, market hall, public transport interchange, several civic squares, as well as apartments.
The scheme will replace the existing Forum shopping centre and Gateway theatre and move the library and market hall. Top store owners House of Fraser has been linked to moving a department store into Northgate but insist that talks are still in progress.
Deputy leader of Chester City Council John Price was delighted the new council headquarters now has detailed planning permission.
He said: 'This is great news. It's a truly positive step for the city. The journey to continuing prosperity now begins. Without this building the city's future would have been in doubt. As it is, we can now look forward to the proper revitalisation and regeneration of Chester.'
Ian Simpson, director of Ian Simpson Architects, added: 'I am delighted that we have achieved planning permission for what will be a ground-breaking project. Chester is a city that has a respect for its historic buildings and skyline, but also has a desire to be seen as a city with a future and a commitment to the 21st Century.'
Ben Rainford, joint managing director of ING Real Estate Development UK, said: 'We are looking forward to starting work on rejuvenating the site to transform it into a first class public facility for all Chester residents.'
But Bob Clough Parker, secretary of Chester Business Club, said he was disappointed the building had been given approval.
He said: 'So much, then, for taking into account the views of the citizens of Chester!
'Given their vested interest in the development project it is hardly surprising that Ian Simpson, as the architect, and Ben Rainford, as the developer, have given such an enthusiastic welcome to the council's planning decision.
'The triumvirate is completed by Cllr Price giving his own ringing endorsement.
'All it needs now is for Paul Burrell to be invited to perform the official opening of the largest city-centre greenhouse in the UK.'
Chester City Council confirmed that once Compulsory Purchase Orders for the Northgate site are firmed up then work will begin on the Gorse Stacks site in spring 2005.