The difficult challenge of gaining safe access to Dee House was explained at the latest meeting of the Dee House Working Group.

The working group, which is meeting monthly until June 2019, is considering the facts in order to reach a collective conclusion on the best options for the future of Chester’s Dee House.

Each meeting is focusing on a different theme. Last month, archaeological experts presented evidence on what is known about Dee House, the amphitheatre and the wider area. One of the conclusions is that little of the amphitheatre has survived and further excavation is 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.

Fay explained that:

  • the building is in a significant state of disrepair
  • it cannot currently be accessed due to safety concerns
  • securing safe access to the building is necessary to fully understand the true of cost of its restoration
  • securing safe access will be complex and will require co-ordinated and collaborative work using a team 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.

“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.

“We hope to hold a public information session over the coming weeks when we will share the outcomes of the monthly fact finding meetings.  There will then be a public consultation later in the year to share the group’s recommendations on the best future of Dee House.”

The working group membership includes representatives from the Chester Growth Partnership, Cheshire West and Chester Council members from across the political spectrum, the Chester Archaeological Society, Chester Civic Trust, Chester Attraction Partnership, , Big Heritage, Dig Up Deva, Roman Tours, a Chester University archaeological student,  Cheshire West and Chester Council officers, and Historic England in an advisory capacity.