The first stage of the consultation and public engagement programme for Chester’s vital Northgate Development Project will open on Monday, 26 November.

A model of the Council’s master plan to help drive Chester’s future as an international class heritage and retail city will go on view at the Customer Contact Centre, in the Forum, until Friday, 11 January.

The concept, which could change and evolve as a result of the consultation input, has been produced by a top design team and cross-party members working group.

On the retail side, it will include a department store, five large stores, a small food store, around 50 smaller retail units and up to 20 food and beverage outlets.

A new multi-screen cinema and market – to be built before the present market closes – will stand alongside the proposed £40m theatre and library complex, and a new square complementing the refurbished town hall and Chester Cathedral.

Parking for around 1,000 cars is proposed together with bus stops within the Northgate site, together with cycle routes and storage facilities.

Councillor Herbert Manley, Executive Member for Prosperity, said: “The importance of the Northgate scheme to Chester cannot be overstated. Nor can the views of the Chester public, its businesses and stakeholders.

“In fact any organisation which may not be able to take advantage of the consultation arrangements and would like an exhibition or briefing are encouraged to get in touch.”

And Local Councillor Samantha Dixon said: “The voices of residents, traders, visitors, investors and experts need to be heard – and most vitally acted upon.

“There will be arguments about the details and there will be differences about elements of it but Northgate has to work for the people of Chester. It represents their jobs, their livelihoods and their prosperity.”

A series of meetings and briefings for key stakeholders are to be held in early December.

And on 10 and 11 December, the public will be invited to drop in sessions at the Town Hall’s Palatine Room, when the concept model, plans and artists impressions will be on view.

Members of the design team will be available to answer questions and will offer ‘walkabouts’ of the Northgate site.

Leaflets explaining the scheme and inviting feedback will be widely circulated – including to key landowners within the site, city centre retailers, adjoining occupiers and all organisations previously consulted on the One City Plan.

And when all comments have been received and considered, a report on the outcome will go before the Executive early in the New Year.

The Council’s Northgate concept was unanimously backed by the Executive after receiving strong cross-party support from members.

Councillor Neil Sullivan said: “It is vital that the centre of Chester is refreshed so that its rightful place as a regional retail leader can be re-established.

“These initial design proposals have taken all that is great about the city’s built environment and added the necessary building blocks to strengthen our offering.”

Councillor Carolyn Graham, Opposition spokesman for Prosperity, wants to attract a new element of diversity to the Chester shopping experience.

“We need a robust strategy for retaining the shops and character that we already have in the city centre through effective engagement with retailers” she said.

“There should also be an acknowledgement that Northgate does not compete – but complements the success that we already enjoy.”

And Councillor Pamela Hall believes that the concept capture the ‘heart and history’ of Chester.

“It offers a sustainable and exciting vision of retail and leisure for the city whilst ensuring that our existing shops heritage and traditional areas are part of the scheme” she said.