A CITY centre regeneration scheme, including a new department store and shopping streets, has been given the thumbs up by the Chester public.
A consultation exercise showed 68% support for the Northgate Development which would provide 450,000 sq ft extra retail to fight off out-of-town shopping centres like Cheshire Oaks.
It would encompass an area including the Forum shopping centre and land between the rear of Watergate Street and the rear of Hunter Street.
London & Amsterdam, the developers behind the scheme, have bought The Forum and neighbouring land from Scottish Widows.
Key features of the scheme are:
* A three-storey department store off Hunter Street
* Forum shopping centre demolished to make way for new shopping streets by extending Crook Street and Goss Street northwards.
* New shopping streets to include 120 apartments above two tiers of shops.
* Gateway Theatre demolished and relocated within an attractive square.
* Market hall relocated to where the library is now with old facade retained.
* Library moved to where the Forum is now above new shops but with a ground floor entrance.
A public exhibition was held at the town hall during the summer, and the results of an accompanying consultation exercise showed 84% of those who filled in the questionnaire backed the idea of a new performing arts centre.
The majority favoured a high quality department store and plans for 120 flats as part of the scheme.
There were concerns about the proposed position of the library, the size of the arts centre, the architecture and issues connected with a proposed bus station in Hunter Street.
Ben Rainford, director of London & Amsterdam, said: 'The feedback is very encouraging at this stage of the project.
'A development of the nature being proposed at Northgate will generate support and opposition and so we are very pleased with the level of positive support from the public and the constructive comments made.
'We intend to create a flagship development that will become a blueprint for redevelopment in historic cities like Chester which we trust everyone will be proud of.'
Cllr Steve Davies (Lab), development and regeneration portfolio holder for the city council, said: 'This has been a very positive response so far and people will still have the opportunity to give their views when the application comes in. We only want the best for Chester.'
L&A expects to submit a planning application in the New Year together and will mount a major public exhibition.
Work could start on site by the end of 2003, on a phased basis, with the development opening by the end of 2006 with total development completed by 2007. Detailed discussions are taking place with undisclosed retailers.