Group recommends saving and investing in Chester's Dee House

10 February 2020

The Dee House and Amphitheatre Working Group presented its vision for the future of Chester’s Dee House.

Members of the community gathered at Storyhouse last week to hear the group’s chairman, Andy Foster, outline the group’s recommendations, which were formed following a year of fact finding, debate and discussions.

The conclusions and recommendations from the independent group include:  
  • De-listing of Dee House is not possible and should be discounted as an option
  • Whole scale demolition of Dee House is not possible and should be discounted as an option
  • Full excavation of the amphitheatre is not possible and should be discounted as an option
  • Retention of Dee House, an important building in the story of Chester, is possible although, given its condition, a pragmatic approach is required.
  • Celebrate the site’s 8,000 years of history  in future proposals
  • Adopt a public/private partnership approach;  the best solution to attract funding
  • Take action to safeguard Dee House, which is in a declining state of disrepair with a significant building conservation deficit  
  • Identify public sector funding to remove the conservation deficit and enhance the site for potential development partners
  • Support the broad principles of Cheshire Historic Buildings Preservation Trust’s (CHBPT) proposal to safeguard the building
  • Future use should incorporate a meaningful heritage interpretation element  and maximise opportunities for accessible community use 
  • Community use will need to be balanced with other uses to achieve viable commercial returns that will secure long term sustainability of the building
  • Council should explore working with the private sector and potentially the CHBPT to deliver any future scheme
  • Take action to ensure any  future scheme maximises  the potential of the amphitheatre and the linkages to St John’s, Roman Gardens and Grosvenor Park
  • The Council should build upon the collaborative approach established through the working group as it responds to its recommendations and takes the project forward.
Following this final stage of public consultation, the group’s recommendations will now be presented to the Council as a proposed approach for the building’s long-term future. 

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “The members of the working group had different views about the best future for Dee House when we first met. 

“However, we have worked together well in the last year and we have listened to expert advice with an open mind. This has resulted in us concluding this rewarding and productive process with a shared view. I am thankful for the contribution of the working group to this important issue.

“Our collective thinking is reflected in these recommendations, which are being shared with the community and will be reported to Cabinet. The Council will work to secure funding and will continue to work with the group to ensure the future of this listed building benefits the whole community. 

Andy Foster, chair of the working group, said: “The recommendations and conclusions of the group have arisen out of an examination of all the evidence gathered and contributions from experts in the field and reflect a consensus view across the group.

“There is a now a much better collective appreciation of the archaeological and historical context of the amphitheatre and Dee House site, and the wider constraints and challenges that need to be addressed in bringing a sustainable new use forward for this unique site.

“The foundations for ongoing collaborative partnership work have been firmly established and provide a solid platform for ongoing joint working with the Council as the project moves into the next phase. This will include stabilising the building using the principles of the Preservation Trust’s strategy and exploring investment options from external partners – all in the context of public consultation and continued use of this working group who are keen to help further. “ 

Alongside the work of this group, the Cheshire Historic Buildings Preservation Trust (CHBPT) carried out a Project Viability Appraisal on the Dee House site with a grant from Architectural Heritage Fund and funding contributions from Chester Civic Trust, Chester Archaeological Society and Cheshire West and Chester Council. 

CHBT has collaborated with the working group in the last year and a number of these recommendations draw on CHBPT’s findings.    
There is another chance to discuss the recommendations with the working group and offer your feedback on 12 February at 1-5pm in the Palatine Room in Chester Town Hall.

The working group membership includes representatives from the Chester Growth Partnership, Cheshire West and Chester Council members from across the political spectrum, the Chester Archaeological Society, Chester Civic Trust, Chester Attraction Partnership, Big Heritage, Dig Up Deva, Roman Tours, a Chester University archaeological student, Cheshire West and Chester Council officers, St. Johns Church and Historic England in an advisory capacity.

Watch Andy Foster presents the group’s recommendations on the Council's website.


 

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