A RESCUE plan aimed at cutting costs and increasing revenue to save the under-threat £400m Northgate Development will be unveiled in March.
Chester City Council’s executive will meet on March 26 to consider a revised scheme that will help developer ING progress the project.
The retail-driven scheme has stalled because of the global credit crunch, which has raised the expense of financing the scheme, together with higher construction costs.
Councillors are working with ING to reduce the cost of the project – which as well as a department store and 60 shops includes public amenities such as a performing arts centre and new library – as well as adding more income-generating elements such as extra retail.
A 20-plus list of undisclosed options has now been whittled down to about “half a dozen”, according to deputy council leader Stephen Mosley.
He said: “We are absolutely committed to it and want to deliver it as soon as possible. We are working to reduce the costs or increase the income to make the scheme viable. We have looked at everything and ruled some things in as possibilities and some things out.
“It’s a big important project for Chester and the whole council has been working towards it for years.”
There had been rumours the performing arts centre could face the axe, but Cllr Mosley said for the time-being it was “staying where it is”.
Likewise, proposed replacement council offices are likely to feature in the revised scheme along with the planned bus station.
Cllr Mosley understands only too well that ING are hard-nosed business people who want the most profitable deal, but added: “We are negotiating hard as well.”
Cllr Mosley hopes the scheme can go “unconditional” or beyond the point of no return “as soon as possible” after the March decision so that construction work can start this summer.
He denied Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Paul Roberts’ charge that the new Tory administration had caused crucial delays by renegotiating the new council offices element of the project, leading the scheme to miss its original “unconditional” deadline.