Plans lodged for Chester Odeon site

The Brook Group has submitted a planning and listed building consent application to Cheshire West & Chester Council for the conversion of the former Odeon cinema on Northgate Street into a new mixed-use scheme.

The project involves incorporating a theatre, cinema, and performance space, together with restaurants, café and bars.

An application was submitted on Thursday 27 January in a move to support the council's ongoing requirement for a new cultural and arts facility as part of the retail-led Northgate Development scheme and proposed improvements to the Cathedral Quarter.

Site owner The Brook Group said the proposal will bring back into use a Grade II-listed building whilst ensuring that the building's character and history is preserved capitalising on its central location to enhance Chester's leisure offer.

Last October, the council said the building is within a prominent location next to the main civic space on the boundary between the main shopping core and leisure area. The council said overall costing for the conversion of the Odeon, which currently has 1,680 seats and could also include some cinema provision, is estimated at £38m. The building has remained vacant for over three years.

A report undertaken by Manchester-based Locum Consulting for the council last year confirmed that 20 locations were reviewed for a theatre, with the Odeon building being one of two shortlisted.

 Little Roodee site proposed for new Chester theatreThe council-owned Little Roodee car park, which is considered to add to the attractions of the riverfront and supports the development of the Lower Bridge Street and Castle area, was the other one shortlisted. The costs were estimated at around £50m, including around £11m for car parking.

Cheshire West & Chester Council said in a statement: "We are aware of the application which will be considered in the normal way. However, as we have frequently stated, detailed reports on the preferred sites of the new theatre – the Odeon cinema and the Little Roodee car park – when completed will be considered by the executive."

The council said a decision on the preferred site will be chosen by the executive committee on 9 March.

The Brook Group said the advantages of the Odeon site included its location within the city walls, close to the shopping and leisure areas; re-use of an historic building and "the building being vibrant 18 hours a day". The inclusion of retail and leisure facilities has been incorporated in response to demand from national retailers which would in turn generate employment opportunities within Chester.

Jacqui Deans, senior associate at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, planning consultant for The Brook Group, said: "The proposals could provide a theatre/performance space the need for which has been well documented. Alternatively an arts house cinema could be provided as part of the scheme. The mix of uses proposed would enable this vacant listed landmark building to be brought back into use as an entertainment venue, as well as creating jobs."

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UPDATE: adds statement from Cheshire West & Chester Council

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