A BIT of park life has spring up in the heart of Chester city centre.

The new 'parklet' has appeared in the front of Chester Town Hall to give shoppers and visitors a bit of open space, right in the middle of town.

A similar parklet has appeared in the centre of Neston.

The new parklet in Neston town centre.

The new parklet in Neston town centre.

Funded through the government’s Containment Outbreak Management Fund (COMF), these open-air areas have seating and tables and are free for everyone to use.

They’re also bringing a bit of biodiversity to shopping centres by including planters full of flowering plants.

They have been designed as the perfect places to stop, sit, take a breather, meet friends, watch the world go by and enjoy food and drink.

Both parklets will give the high street a boost and have been installed following discussions with the local business community.

Chester’s parklet will support Chester Market and other independent restaurants, bars and cafes around Northgate. Alfresco dining has already proved popular on Watergate Street, Bridge Street and Eastgate Street, with car access restrictions now in place from 10.30am until 8pm, to allow for businesses to serve their customers in the open air through into the evening.

The Town Hall Square was chosen as a high-profile spot for the parklet and it will remain in place until the end of September as part of an initial trial.

It is hoped that it will be used again for other seasonal activity, and when not located in Town Hall Square it could be used to provide additional seating in the market alfresco area, which remains open for outdoor dining and drinking towards the rear of The Forum.

The Neston parklet on High Street uses the parking bay opposite St Mary’s and Helen’s Church. It’s also available for everyone to use as well as being a shared space for local restaurants and cafes.

The new parklets come hot on the heels of a green open space at Weaver Square in the middle of Northwich Town Centre, which is proving popular with shoppers, diners and tourists visiting the town.

Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cllr Louise Gittins, said: “After a difficult time during the coronavirus pandemic we want people to come out and enjoy their town and city centres.

"Visitors can use the parklets in a variety of ways, you can meet friends, enjoy the sights or take time out and read a book. Whatever you do, the parklets are there for you and we want everyone to enjoy them.”

The Chester and Neston schemes are similar to successful ones that have been introduced in other areas of the country such as Hackney in London and the Without Walls areas in Liverpool’s Bold Street and Castle Street.

The parklets will be left out overnight but have the option of being moved for events if needed. The planters are locked in place but are on wheels can be easily moved.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Inclusive Growth, Economy and Regeneration, Cllr Richard Beacham, said: “It’s great to see town centres like Chester, Neston and Northwich enlivened again and the council’s parklets programme is about providing safe outdoor space for residents and visitors to sit and enjoy the public spaces where they are located.

“We hear a lot about town centres being in decline these days, but by working together with traders, BIDs, town councils and residents this council is reimagining the future of high streets in every town in our borough. Initiatives like the parklets is part of this work and there is much more to come.”