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Urban Land Institute

The panel were asked to think creatively about ‘Big Ideas’ for Chester’s future.

What the ULI Panel heard...

  • Chester is like a theatre, we have all the props, scenery and actors but no plot.
  • Chester is both physically and institutionally fragmented.
  • Chester needs a mission statement.
  • A city transfixed by its past at the expense of its future.
  • There are no suits in the city centre at lunchtime – all those organizations are based outside and it’s perfectly possible to be employed in Chester but to never to come into the heart of the town, let alone spend money here.
  • People haven’t heard of Chester – we just assume they know we are here.
  • The hands of the City fathers have been tied together – we have no clear decision-making.
  • Chester can’t rely on just being Chester any more – it has to make a distinct offer.

What the Panel concluded…

  • The panel emphasises the necessity for a clear, comprehensive strategy based on firm foundations of environmental sustainability. This should be reinforced and managed by clear, integrated and accountable leadership.
  • Any developments and improvements made should be goal– focused and regularly monitored to evaluate progress.
  • The panel are unanimous in recommending that Chester step back from the multitude of projects and plans in order to develop a longer term vision and strategy for the success of the city in a more competitive and challenging environment…This recommendation does not mean rushing blindly into
    action to be seen to be responsive – but rather to consider collectively the many good ideas and valuable work already in place to better leverage the local community and organisations are so committed to the success of the city and to act on those plans, which are agreed to be the best for Chester going forward.
  • The panel believe that each of the city’s assets are able to offer more than they do at present and some a great deal more.
  • There is a great deal of unrealised potential.
  • Chester should focus on being a distinctive regional city with its own brand that exploits its unique heritage but is not afraid to look forward. Local entrepreneurs, the student community and existing local businesses should all be engaged around creative innovation so Chester can remain a city with a strong business hub, regardless of the continued resurgence of Liverpool and Manchester.
  • …the panel suggests to integrate the university and college curricula with the city experience (in fields such as heritage management, hospitality, museology, preservation, zoo management etc) to create a ‘centre of excellence’, developing synergies and providing training for students and jobs for graduates. An entrepreneurship and innovation incubator for said industries is also recommended.
  • A strategy building on quality instead of quantity will mean lower impact and higher yield...Less is more; quality not quantity.
  • A vibrant community and city is good for business.
  • The panel recommends the consideration of a multi functional and sustainable centre for arts and culture.
  • The panel concluded that Chester has a very great opportunity for a turnaround strategy based on business and innovation in the sectors of culture, art and heritage. This conjunction is potentially unique:  heritage alone will not fulfill the potential Chester has to re-establish itself as a vibrant business centre.  A bland business offer that replicates every other second tier city in the UK offers no differentiation.  But a business and enterprise approach to culture, tourism, entertainment and heritage could be a very strong proposition indeed.
  • The panel believes that the proposition needs to be created and shaped by the business community rather than the public sector and that it should engage and bring together all the strands of enterprise and creative potential that we saw in the local business and educational community.
  • The genuinely broad engagement of this panel process for Chester has proved that a positive consensus can be reached.
  • Excellence does not happen by accident, but results from ingenuity, thorough planning and co-ordination and lots of hard work.