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£185m new look for city centre

£185m new look for city centre shopping unveiled

NEW shopping streets and a department store feature in a £185m scheme which would transform Chester city centre by 2007.

From Monday people are invited to view an exhibition in Chester Town Hall to see exactly what it would mean for the city.

The project would create 450,000 sq ft more retail space to fight off competition from out-of-town shopping centres.

Key features of the London-Amsterdam project are:

Forum demolished to make way for new shopping streets by extending Crook street and Goss Street.

A new three-storey department store off Hunter Street.

Gateway Theatre demolished and relocated a few metres south within an attractive square.

Market Hall relocated to where the library is within the old façade.

Library moved to where the Forum is now - above new shops but with a ground floor entrance.

The new shopping streets would include 119 apartments, with one, two and three bedrooms, built on top of two tiers of shops, with roof top gardens.

Existing Princess Street parking would be replaced at a 700 space multi-storey on the site of the former health authority building St Martin's House bordering the ring road.

A new bus station and link road would be created in Hunter Street. There would also be a mobility shop where disabled people could hire electric buggies.

A demolition programme would be involved including, not just the Forum, but several unused county council and government office blocks.

Below ground the area is rich in Roman archaeological remains and any development would have to be sensitive to that fact.

People still remember that when the Forum was built the Roman elliptical building was destroyed. They also recall the ornate stone façade of the original market hall was replaced with a 1960s concrete building.

This time there are few buildings to protect for their aesthetic value.

Ben Rainford, a director of London-Amsterdam believes most people will recognise the area is run down and in need of a revamp.

He said: 'Chester is a strong city centre. There are a lot of retailers who want to be represented but because of the nature of the shops - quite narrow and deep - they don't meet the retailers' requirements.'

Mr Rainford said the scheme was designed by architects Michael Hopkins and Partners, responsible for Glyndebourne Opera House, Portcullis House in Westminster and a stand at Lords Cricket Ground.

London and Amsterdam was selected by Chester City Council as the preferred developer. It is part of Dutch Bank ING, Europe's second largest bank, and could finance the scheme alone or in partnership.

Timetable for planned development:

THE public exhibition begins on Monday for a couple of weeks as part of a consultation exercise with a further exhibition planned in Spetember.

It is intended a planning application be submitted in late September. Work could then start on the site by the end of 2003 with the development opening by the end of 2006 and total development completed by 2007.

London & Amsterdam is working in partnership with the city and county councils. Negotiations have started with a view to acquiring land - much of which is owned by the county council.

Detailed discussions have begun with undisclosed national and international retailers.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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