The Dee House Working Group consisting of various interested bodies (including Dig up Deva, the Civic Trust and BIG Heritage) have recently been informed of the dire state of repair to Dee House including the ” difficult challenge of gaining safe access.” The Dee House row escalated in the summer of 2016 when campaigners from Dig Up Deva argued for a period of public consultation instead of the council’s proposed deal with pub chain Thwaites. This deal collapsed after 2 more years of inactivity due to the huge cost of repairs to the building.
Last month the group were told by archaeological experts that little of the amphitheatre has survived and that demolition/excavation, the dream of many, was of “limited value”.
This month’s meeting welcomed structural engineer Fay Newham from Ramboll. Thwaites had appointed Ramboll as their structural engineers for their restoration project before Thwaites and the Council agreed mutually to part company in September 2018. Fay outlined the current structural condition of Dee House to the working group. She described the challenges and issues developers would face if the building was to be accessed and renovated. She explained, to presumably no ones great surprise that the building is in “a significant state of disrepair” and that the building cannot even be accessed due to safety concerns. The cost of restoration cannot be assessed until safe access is secured, a process will which likely be costly and complex involving the use of specialist contractors.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “The group agreed that imminent progress needs to be made with Dee House and firm decisions about its future need to be taken. The Council is wholly supportive of this and will continue to work in partnership to secure its future.
“The group has yet to reach its final conclusion on the best future for Dee House but this latest meeting has helped focus our minds on the difficult task ahead. We are working in partnership to explore all available future options and funding streams so that firm decisions can be made on the future of the building.”
Also attending the meeting was Andrew Russell from Russell Geomatics. He shared laser scanning information of the building with the group, which he obtained from the outside using special technology.
The Group were informed that the Council has spent £36,000 on Dee House since 2015, predominantly on studies to gather information about the site.
The Chair of the group Andy Foster, on behalf of the Chester Growth Partnership, said: “The information we have gathered at this meeting has given us a clearer understanding of the building’s structural condition and the costs associated with securing safe access. We understand that these could be in the range of £350,000 – £450,000. These challenges and costs will be important considerations as we consider the economic viability of future options.
The Working Group are drawing towards the end of their information gathering stage and are aiming to reach a conclusion based upon the historical/archaeological context and the structural issues. The next meeting will be looking at national and local policy context in detail. A public information session will also take place soon in advance of a further consultation later in the year.
The debate continues