Position statement on Northgate Development Chester Liberal Democrats strongly support measures to redevelop the Northgate area of the city. We believe that phase 0 and 1 of the regeneration scheme, encompassing further investment into the cultural life of the city following the opening of Storyhouse, is vital to the future success of Chester. We look forward to seeing work begin to renovate the old library and create a new market, cinema and civic square. We urge Cheshire West and Chester Council to move forward on this without delay, in order to capitalise on the great success of the Storyhouse project. However, we are concerned that current plans for the phase 2 creation of 37,000 sqm of new ‘big box’ retail space and the movement of the Crown Plaza hotel, is out-dated and unviable in the current economic climate. Chester Liberal Democrats would like to see phase 2 of the scheme reconsidered to include a broader mix of leisure, cultural, hospitality, residential and modern flexible office space supported by an innovative, experiential retail offering. We feel that the current plans for phase 2 risks undermining the entire Northgate regeneration scheme as they rely on an old-fashioned anchor store model of retail development that is simply no longer supported by the British consumer. Chester Liberal Democrat Economic Spokesperson Neil Lewis said,
“Big box retail is a failing business model as the troubles of House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Toys R Us and many others show. However, this is far from the end of retail. Instead, with many consumers moving online for day-to-day purchases a shift to experiential retail is the future for the physical shopping experience. Chester is exceptionally well placed to capitalise on this dramatic market shift as it offers iconic buildings in a rich cultural centre with enough supporting leisure facilities to keep all the family and every friend happy.”Chester Liberal Democrats also believe that the current focus on the Northgate area risks undermining development of the existing retail and cultural offer in and around The Rows. We believe that this is an oversight, which could lead to catastrophic underinvestment in the very heritage that makes Chester a unique and special place to live, work and visit. Neil Lewis went on to say,
"We also believe that it is time to refocus on the unique asset we already have in the centre of Chester - The Rows, and that we need a plan to galvanise the failing upper levels to bring back life, energy and vibrancy into the heart of our city."