RESIDENTS and businesspeople say erecting a four-storey contemporary building at Chester's famous riverside would be an act of 'civic vandalism'.

Under the plans The Groves bar and bistro would be demolished by applicants Delamere Palatine, but the height and design of its proposed replacement has caused anxiety.

A model suggests the block, which would feature two restaurants on the ground floor with residential development above, will be higher than the adjacent city walls.

Robert Bauer, a resident of The Groves for 13 years, said: 'It's three or four times bigger than the present building. It's in keeping with the monstrosity opposite - Salmon Leap - and will perpetuate the original disaster.'

Mr Bauer, who likes the existing building at the site, added: 'The Groves area is the jewel in Chester's crown and it shouldn't be allowed to be defaced by something like this.'

In an open letter to Chester city councillors, Paul Eeles, owner of the Riverside Takeaway, said: 'To allow a glass and concrete tower block to scar this heritage gem would be an act of civic vandalism of unparalleled proportions.'

But Stuart Williams, chief executive ofthe company behind the project, said: 'If you go down to the Old Orleans in winter there's not a soul. For far too long this has been a downmarket site. It's time we put some life back into it again.'

Stressing his credentials as a Cestrian, he added: 'I know there are all sorts of sensitive issues. That's why English Heritage, Chester conservation, archaeology and the Civic Trust are involved.'