A visit to Chester Zoo followed by a tour of Chester’s Rows was on the agenda yesterday with a visit from Rt Hon Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism.

The Minister was in Chester to hear about the Chester High Street Heritage Action Zone programme.

The £3.7 million project received confirmation of a £1.08 million grant from Historic England in April.  The Programme will deliver nine projects over a four-year period.

The Minister walked along the upper level of Rows at Northgate/Eastgate Street to visit the new vegetarian restaurant “Shrub” which has brought vibrancy to a prominent corner in the heart of the city.  He learned about the components of the programme and the current issues faced in the Rows.

Walking back to the Cross, the new hotel proposals at 2-8 Bridge Street were discussed and there was a chance to see Chester’s latest arrival at 4 Bridge Street, the first pop-up gallery organised by Place for the Arts Chester.

The tour ended in Watergate Street, highlighting the importance of bringing a creative, university led presence into the high street and the role this has in terms of diversification of the city centre.

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth said: “The High Street Heritage Action Zone is a really exciting project. Working with businesses and residents we aim to re-imagine our historic Rows, enhancing some areas and re-purposing others. Clearly the Rows are one of Chester’s greatest assets and are undoubtedly a source of great pride for people in our city, so having the opportunity to share our plans with the Minister has been a great opportunity.

“The Rows are unique in Western Europe, they are in the Chester City Conservation Area and include 102 Listed Buildings. So whilst Chester’s high street is facing similar challenges to others in the UK, the Rows offer us an iconic destination to attract more visitors and grow new businesses. By telling the story of the Rows and better utilising them as a functional modern space in a historical setting, the whole city can benefit. That’s what this project and the funding is all about.”