Cheshire West & Chester Council has issued a lengthy statement to try and deflect fierce criticism of its decision to award a long lease to pub operator Thwaites at Dee House, ongoing against excavating the Roman amphitheatre at the city centre site.
Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “We are committed to restoring the grade two-listed Dee House to its former glory and improving the visitor experience to the amphitheatre.
“We know this is a highly emotive issue and that is why we have devoted many hours and much effort to fully consider and scrutinise the decision.
“Daniel Thwaites plc has proposed a high quality hotel and restaurant, to create an interpretation centre and café, and to remodel the public realm around the building, enhancing the views of the [exposed half of the] amphitheatre.
“The proposal does not involve any new build and will restore the current building to its former glory and will protect two key historic assets for future generations.
“The company has significant experience of restoring listed buildings back into beneficial use, most notably the Judges Lodgings, a grade one listed Georgian Town House in York.
“Whilst we understand that some people will be upset and angry because we cannot excavate the full amphitheatre we must be clear that this is not a viable option. Historic England state that excavations of the buried remains of the Roman amphitheatre carried out between 2004 and 2006 showed that only fragments survive as most of the stonework had previously been removed for re-use elsewhere.
“The view of most experts is that it is also highly unlikely that further excavation will expose anything which can be displayed without a very high level of reconstruction. Most of the walls on display today are 20th century reconstructions of what was once there.
“A new hotel and restaurant will bring a significant amount of private sector investment into the city at a time of significant economic challenge. It represents the city’s best opportunity to boost the visitor experience around the amphitheatre whilst protecting two key historic assets for future generations.”