Councillors have agreed a 150-year lease with pub chain Daniel Thwaites to redevelop Dee House and surrounding land in Chester city centre despite objections from residents who campaigned for excavation of the 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre beneath instead.
Dee House dates back 300 years and is a listed building. Historic England want it retained. The building has been vacant since 1993 and the area subject to numerous design proposals over the past 20 years.
More than 18,000 signatures were gathered after a petition was launched to “Dig Up Deva” and restore the amphitheatre.
The site was brought to market in summer 2015 through OJEU. Daniel Thwaites has emerged as the winning bidder.
Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing at Cheshire West & Chester Council, said: “We can confirm that Daniel Thwaites PLC is the successful bidder for the development of Dee House. We are currently still within an EU procurement exercise and will be able to provide further details in the next few weeks.”
Some residents would prefer the building to be de-listed and demolished, which Historic England and CWAC both oppose.
Daniel Thwaites’ proposal is understood to include a hotel and visitor centre. Using the site for food and drink would continue the emerging restaurant and bar circuit along Pepper Street.
A council report published this month into the leasing decision argues that “only fragments of the amphitheatre survive as most of the stonework had previously been removed for re-use elsewhere.”
The part of the amphitheatre that Dee House sits on was covered in the 1960s. Dee House has been previously used as a convent and an office.
Daniel Thwaites’ proposals will be subject to planning application.
No one was available to comment at Daniel Thwaites.