Chester amphitheatre: Anger at sell-off despite petition

Chester Amphitheatre
Image caption Much of the site of Chester's Roman amphitheatre has yet to be uncovered

Plans to sell off a building which sits over the covered part of Chester's Roman amphitheatre have been approved, despite the objections of more than 18,000 people.

The BBC understands an undisclosed buyer will turn Dee House into a hotel, restaurant and bar.

Campaigner Adam Dandy said the plan's critics feel "ignored" by the council.

But the Labour-run council has insisted the proposal will "transform that area of the city".

A Cheshire West and Chester Council committee decided on Thursday not to make any recommendations about the deal which means council officials can now authorise its completion.

It will see the buyer, whose identity was not revealed by the council, sign a 150-year lease for the derelict 18th Century listed building, which has been empty since 1993.

The BBC has learnt the council's preferred bidder will restore it without adding new buildings. There will be minimal impact on the archaeological remains.

The plan includes improved public areas and viewing points, as well as a small interpretation room or cafe with an estimated £6m renovation cost.

The deal was called in for further scrutiny by Conservative councillors after the cabinet's authorisation in July.

Image caption Dee House was built in 1730

'Whole amphitheatre'

The amphitheatre was partly uncovered in the 1960s, 2,000 years after it was built as part of a major legionary fortress called Deva with the unexcavated remainder behind a brick wall and underneath Dee House.

Dig Up Deva campaign organiser Adam Dandy, who gathered an 18,000 signature petition, said the sale destroyed thousands of "people's long-held desires to see (the amphitheatre) uncovered in part or in full in their lifetime".

It also ignored the wishes of the Romans 2,000 years ago, that Deva should "have a whole amphitheatre for Cestrians to enjoy".

Conservative Jill Houlbrook said it could be "the jewel in Chester's crown", and claimed the decision was not based on "open consultation".

But Labour cabinet member Louise Gittins said: "We'd never move forward as a council if we had a consultation on every single detail".

Ms Gittins added: "Everything starts now. We're going to transform that area of the city. It's going to be amazing".

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