EXTENDING Chester’s pedestrianised zone would create a European-style ‘alfresco’ public space to rival those found on the continent.
This is the view of Cheshire West and Chester’s executive member for culture and economy, Cllr Stuart Parker.
He told the executive meeting that proposals to pedestrianise Northgate Street, St Werburgh Street and Hunter Street are fundamental to the city’s ambition of becoming a world-class visitor destination.
He said: “If you travel around Europe you will always find large public realm spaces where transport is shifted around them so they become al fresco meeting places.
“As Chester looks to become an international destination, this is an aspiration we have for the area around Northgate Street.
“We want to make the cultural quarter of the new theatre, library and cinema accessible, bringing the area of the town hall and the cathedral into one big public realm area.”
Cllr Parker was speaking during the debate on a new Chester Transport Strategy which features a raft of proposals designed to support the city’s future growth and prosperity.
Following a lengthy debate, the executive committee voted unanimously to adopt the strategy.
Other flagship proposals include:
l A new bus interchange at Gorse Stacks as part of a wider bus strategy to include the introduction of a ‘shopper hopper’ shuttle bus between the new interchange and other parts of the city centre;
l A shared-space environment on Little St John Street to improve pedestrian links between the city centre and the Amphithe atre; Roman Gardens; St John’s Church and The Groves;
l A member-led review of the park and ride service to agree improvements, including cross-town routing and the introduction of intermediate stops that can be incorporated into a new park and ride contract in 2016;
l Development of a business case and design for a fifth park and ride site serving the A56 Hoole Road corridor;
l Investigating the feasibility of providing a dedicated pedestrian and cycle bridge sited parallel to the Hoole Road railway bridge;
l Introducing junction improvement schemes to reduce congestion and pinch-point problems;
l Examining the case for the proposed Chester Western Relief Road, including consideration of alternative routes.
A proposal to explore the possibility of providing parking for rail passengers on the site of the former Enterprise Centre was a late addition to the strategy.
Responding to a question from Cllr Louise Gittins, Cllr Parker said that the site was large enough to accommodate a car park and a potential new home for Cheshire Record Office.
Cllr David Robinson told the meeting: “I welcome this study. These are all big, mostly revamped schemes, with a total price tag of £150 million – and that’s not including the Chester Western Relief Road.
“I don’t think we have given enough attention to buses. It is vital that we have strong bus connections to the town hall area of our city.
“The suggestion that rural buses will stop at the park and ride and passengers will decant on to another vehicle is bizarre.”
Cllr Robinson questioned why a feasibility study produced in 2009 for a footbridge at Hoole Bridge had not been acted on.