The Chronicle can reveal more than half a dozen cinema operators have expressed interest in locating a multi-screen venue within the proposed £300m Northgate Development as a public consultation gets under way .
And The Chronicle understands the short-list has now been whittled down to a final two with the ambition of delivering a six-screen cinema in the heart of the flagship retail, leisure and residential development.
Meanwhile, talks are ongoing with department store chains including House of Fraser, who wanted to deliver the anchor store in the original scheme and remain hot favourite to be the main draw. Other names in the frame are John Lewis and Fenwick.
News that businesses are keen to invest in the city comes as proposals go on display as part of a three-day public consultation in The Forum shopping centre.
Residents, businesses, community groups and visitors are encouraged to visit the exhibition which runs between 4-8pm today (Thursday December 3) and continues tomorrow between 12-4pm and on Saturday, December 5, between 10.30am-3.30pm.
The project team will be on hand to discuss this major investment and people will have the opportunity to register their views.
CWaC leader and City ward member Cllr Samantha Dixon said: “Although Northgate is a long-held aspiration, the masterplan is very much an up-to-date strategy informed by current market demands to ensure it offers the right kind and blend of accommodation to attract prime retailers.
“This major regeneration scheme will complement Chester’s existing retail and leisure offer in order to return the city to its rightful place as a regional retail leader. We now want to hear the views of residents, businesses and everyone else with an interest in the future economic success of our city.”
As well as new shopping, including a department store, a multi-screen cinema, cafes and restaurants, the development will deliver an improved local market, new homes above some of the shops and car parking.
The revised scheme includes a new hotel as a replacement to the 1980s Crowne Plaza on another part of the site. That move will allow for an improved shopping layout, including the new department store on the site of the existing hotel.
City centre resident Chas Warwood, of Water Tower Street, went along to Tuesday’s consultation meeting where he heard CWaC's head of planning projects Dave Anderson reveal the expressions of interest in Chester from seven cinema chains.
However, Mr Warwood is concerned about a lack of car parking within the scheme.
He told The Chronicle: “There was a question about car parks and the fact only 800 car parking spaces will be under the new store, if it comes, and a number of other car parks will disappear. There will be another 70 under the new hotel and conference centre.”
Housing element welcomed
Andrew Needham, of the Cheshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), welcomed the residential elements of the plans.
He said: “We are pleased to see the proposals for two residential blocks – one on the site of the Crowne Plaza – and one between the town hall and the Dublin Packet. We think that more people living in the city would be better than shoppers commuting in and out.”
It was following a review of the Northgate scheme by the council’s development manager Rivington Land, that the council’s cabinet approved an updated set of proposals in September 2015.
These proposals are now the subject of public consultation, prior to a planning application being submitted in spring 2016.
Visitors to this week's exhibition are asked to look out for signs in The Forum which will direct them to the ‘Northgate Consultation Shop’. For a month following the staffed exhibitions, the plans will remain on view in the shop window and an online consultation will run until early January.
All the information shown at the exhibition will be uploaded to the dedicated project website – www.chesternorthgate.com – through which people can also find contact details for the team and submit their feedback.
If people would like to register their interest in being kept informed about the Northgate Development, they can do so by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0344 225 0003.