Making Chester’s grade two-listed Dee House safe to access could cost nearly £500,000 after it was found to be “in a significant state of disrepair”, according to the building’s working group.
The building next to the city’s amphitheatre was set to be converted into a hotel after Cheshire West & Chester Council struck a conditional development agreement for the site in September 2016. However, in October last year, the two parties agreed to part ways, with Thwaites citing access to the building and making the scheme financially viable as major stumbling blocks.
At the time, CWAC said it “remained committed to finding a long-term solution to the site”. The land on which Dee House sits covers the unexcavated part of Chester’s amphitheatre, and is owned by the council.
A working group, including the Chester Growth Partnership, the council, Chester Civic Trust and others, was formed last year and its latest meeting has been told the building will cost between £350,000 and £450,000 to be made safe.
The grade two-listed structure is currently in disrepair, according to engineers from Ramboll, who had advised Thwaites on the project. The building cannot currently be accessed due to safety concerns, and securing access is “necessary to fully understand the true cost of its restoration”.
“Securing safe access will be complex and will require co-ordinated and collaborative work using a team of specialist contractors”.
The council has spent around £36,000 on studies to gather information about the site since 2015, but the building’s future is not subject to any guaranteed public funding.
The working group is to help draw up a plan for Dee House’s future with monthly meetings due to take place until June this year; this will be followed by a public consultation on the group’s recommendations for its future development.
Cllr 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.”
The working group’s chair Andy Foster of Raise Architects said: “To date, the group has focused on fact finding about the key issues so that members are in a better position to reach well informed conclusions about future options.
“We are now drawing towards the end of our information gathering stage. Having a comprehensive overview of all the influencing factors, including the historical and archaeological context and the structural issues, and being able to consider these in their totality will be invaluable as we move into our deliberations over viable future options.
“The next meeting will be looking at national and local policy context in detail. The intention is then to move on to considering options and reaching our conclusions on the best way forward.”