Business leaders were last night (Wednesday) told they have a key role to play in making Chester a ‘city of excellence’ for commerce, retail and tourism.

Council Leader Mike Jones told a gathering of more than 300 Chester Business Club members that the support of the private sector is crucial to the success of the One City Plan.

Speaking at the event at Chester Cathedral, he outlined the strategy to guide the city’s future economic regeneration, which includes the £300m Northgate development and the £100m Central Business Quarter.

“I believe that the steps we take together can make Chester a city of excellence for commerce, retail and tourism over the next decade,” said Councillor Jones.

“However, to achieve this, it is essential that we have a clear and dynamic business agenda that can work to allow our city to reach its full potential.

“As the private sector, you have a critical role to play.”

Councillor Jones re-iterated the Council’s support for Chester BID, a private sector group set up to work with businesses to revitalise the city.

He said: “The BID is your opportunity to make sure that your businesses can get the full benefits of this regeneration.

“Our role as the Council is to be the broker and create an environment for businesses to thrive.

“Chester is a great place – let’s make it even better.”

The event – titled ‘Our City – Our Future’ – also heard from Chester Renaissance Chairman Eric Langton, Cathedral Vice Dean Canon Peter Howell-Jones, and Chairman of Chester BID Paul Daniels.

Acknowledging it may be a “controversial view”, Mr Langton told the gathering that he believes the delays to the Northgate project and theatre replacement will be to the city’s long-term benefit.

“The local authority’s recent purchase of sites previously acquired by ING creates the opportunity to embrace changing retail habits built around leisure and lifestyle,” he said.

“We don’t want to just decant our existing market into a new building. It has to be modelled on the best markets around Europe to benefit residents and wow visitors.

“We will have a fully functioning theatre and library – not just a cut-down performing arts centre. It will not fall darkened between performances.  A continuous programme of workshops is proposed to encourage creativity, accessibility, literacy and employment to help bring our community together.

“And proposals for the first phase of the Northgate scheme includes a modern multi-screen cinema in the heart of the city, which is something I doubt could have been achieved within the old Odeon cinema building.”