17/8/00 I refer to a report in a recent edition of the Standard,
which claimed that the new court house would cover only two per cent of the
site. The report fails to mention that 20 per cent of the site will be covered
by a car park.
The construction of the new court house and associated car park raises two questions:
Why do we need a new court house when we have perfectly good county courts in
Northgate Street and crown courts and magistrates courts near the new site?
I have been in the crown court and magistrates courts and they are both in excellent
condition and fit for purpose. So why are we wasting money on a new court, and
covering a major archaeological site for generations? The use of the land for
a car park demonstrates the double standards adopted by Chester City Council.
They are doing everything possible to discourage people from driving their cars
into the middle of Chester by a combination of carrot and stick. The carrot
is park and ride, which is a good service and the stick, is punitive car park
fees, £11 for over three hours in some car parks.
why does the new court house need all these car park spaces? The existing courts
don't have them. When I served on a jury at the crown court I was told to park
in a public car park. When I was a witness at the magistrates' court I was again
directed to a public car park. If the new court house is opened there is no
need for a car park. Court officials and members of the public could use park
and ride, public car parks or ride bikes to court. A chauffeur could take the
judges to court.
Chester City Council should practise what it preaches. We cannot have double
Ray Hill, 21 Mount Way, Waverton, Chester
Right: a bronze 'trumpet brooch' with silver inlay c. AD100, featuring a stylised animal head, which was excavated from the seating bank of the amphitheatre in 1961- just one of thousands of artifacts that have been unearthed on the site over the years, very few of which have ever been seen by the people of Chester due to the dire shortage of exhibition space
in February called
During May Bank Holiday weekend, a 'Save Our Amphitheatre' banner was hung from
the wall of the city council-owned amphitheatre. On the Tuesday, the city council
arranged for the removal of the banner which had been displayed without the
Chester Amphitheatre Trust seeking the council's permission.
In late June, the banner was hung from the steel structure of the partly built
extension of the Mill Hotel. It was taken down on the instructions of the contractors'
head office as 'inappropriate'. The hotel's co-owner, Gordon Vickers, then arranged
for the banner to hang from the main building where it remained over the weekend
in the run-up to the Amphitheatre Rally on Sunday, July 2.
I do not question the 'banner' decisions of the city council and the contractors.
However, the city council is the servant of the community and what is sauce
for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
The second floor of the external wall of Dee House facing Little St John Street
displays a board which reads: 'DAVID McLEAN. New office and heritage development
by David McLean Developments with Chester City Council. All enquiries tel 01352
A notice of mainly similar wording fronts the pavement. Attached to it is a
Proposed Development Notice (dated November 1, 1999) of application made by
David McLean for consent to increase the site entrance and construct a new sub-station.
Given the city council's recent decision to seek permission to demolish Dee
House, I assume that there is no formal and binding agreement for David McLean
to undertake with Chester City Council new office and heritage development on
the site. I consider, therefore, that any permission for David McLean to display
their board at the Dee House site is inappropriate and should be withdrawn,
and that the city council should arrange for the immediate removal of the boards.
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington, Chester
3/8/00 I am writing as a member of the general public who
is neither a member of the City Council or a member and contributor to the Chester
Amphitheatre Trust nor have I signed the petition which was available at the
Waverton Carnival which supports the excavation of this historic site, namely
A key feature of this narrative in the Standard has been how the saga
began and how we have reached the current report on the front page of the Standard.
Twice before I have written to the paper in an attempt to explore on what grounds
or reasons five years ago it was decided by vote that the amphitheatre should
not be excavated and no explanation has been fonhcoming.
We now appear to be in a situation in which council leadership is asking the
Amphitheatre Trust to present the city council with a detailed, costed and worked
up scheme and business plan which would be considered along with other proposals
for the site.
I note that in another part of the Standard's front page report that:
(1) Cllr Graham Proctor is looking forward to seeing the Amphitheatre's Trust's
plans and that he would welcome plans from other interested parties. However
the Conservative Group leader,
(2) Cllr Brian Bailey is reported as saying "that the Council's position and
future progress towards the excavation of the amphitheatre did not depend upon
any particular external group". Cllr. Bailey goes on to say that the responsibility
for the amphitheatre now lies ("now lies"- what does this imply?) with the city
council which has asked the officers to prepare, in pannership with other interested
bodies, detailed and costed proposals, and there are further positive comments
made by Cllr. Bailey.
The Standard's report goes on to quote Amphitheatre Trust spokespersons as saying
"that they look forward to forming a partnership with the officers and members
of the project team set up by the city council to produce detailed and costed
proposals for a viable scheme for the phased excavation and display of the amphitheatre
site according to the resolution of 5th July".
This is powerful stuff worthy of a report on BBC TV and, far from sending out
a challenge, it demonstrates considerable co-operation and a firm effort by
the Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors to get the amphitheatre project
back on track.
It does not, however, clearly identify the source of funding tor this venture.
The city council five years ago gave planning permission for offices to be built
upon this site and we now find developers building a county court on a specially
designed platform, protecting the remains below which are reported to be two
per cent of the unexcavated amphitheatre.
Much as I would like to see the development of this site as a tourist attraction
and the area and roads contoured to bring St. John's
Church into greater prominence, it is probable that Chester City Council
gave the amphitheatre the coup de grace five years ago and only a coup
de main will bring it back into the prominence that the structure deserves.
1/9/00 Dora Taylor of the Chester Community/Ratepayers' Party
misread my recent letter, 'Dee House sign must
My letter was specific in calling for the city council to arrange for the removal
of the David McLean boards at the Dee House site. I have earlier expressed my
opinion that if Dee House is not demolished, an Amphimuseum could be located
in the renovated building.
Of greater importance at this point in time, however, is the manner in which The Chronicle has implemented its pledge to devote weekly space to cover
amphitheatre matters and to forward the campaign for the achievement of the
'fullest possible excavation at Chester's Roman amphitheatre'. Your coverage
provides more detail and reaches a wider readership than the occasional newsletter
issued by the Chester Amphitheatre Trust. Newsprint and newsletter serve a complementary
When a copy of the original 1,001 signature petition organised by the Trust
on June 15 had been sent to the Lord Chancellor, further signatures were obtained.
A 6,018-signature petition was handed to Chester's Lord Mayor before the city
council's July 5 meeting at which the decision to develop a strategy tor the
excavation of the amphitheatre- and seek permission for the demolition of Dee
House- was passed by 34 votes to 21.
The Trust has pledged to work with the council in any way it can to help with
the preparation of a viable scheme.
Evidence of public support is undoubtedly a prime factor in forwarding the cause
of positive development at the amphitheatre site. Given the continuing success
of your campaign and the rate at which signatures in support are received at
your offices, you might consider it useful, from time to time, to inform your
readers of the total of campaign signatures obtained to date.
The will to maintain the momentum of the campaign is clearly established with
overall concern relating to the reality of Chester's heritage, the opportunity
of the present and an achievable vision for the immediate future.
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane Huntington
1/9/00 I have always believed that time travel is impossible.
However, I have visited the future of the Chester Amphitheatre. At least, I
have visited the future shown in an artist's conception of the current court
house development. This future can be found in London, on the Southwark site
of the original Globe Theatre. Here, one can see the same sort of arc
marked on the surface of the car park showing us the original extent of the
(permanently?) buried structure below, an undistinguished Grade II listed Georgian
house covering a large portion of a significant historical site, and a world
standing outside wondering just how such a travesty could have occurred.
Time travel is not for me. It's too depressing.
John Schulze, San Antonio, Texas
4/8/00 The Chester Amphitheatre Trust has never made accusations about the
work of individual council officers. But if comments by the Trust about
the council's procedures have been misunderstood, then we would certainly apologise
for any hurt caused.
Since April we have been actively fighting the progress of the county court
building on the amphitheatre by the Lord Chancellor and during that time we
received prompt and efficient support from all the officers we dealt with.
Liane Smith specifically thanked the officers for their help at the full council
meeting of July 5 and we are pleased to repeat our thanks to them. In particular,
the reception staff have always been very helpful and we have had tremendous
support from the staff in the Town Hall for all our meetings.
Alan Williams would like to make it quite clear that he wholeheartedly apologises
for his personal style, which many have found difficult to handle. He feels
his style was necessary at the time but since we are moving into a new phase
of the project, a fresh start is needed and a different approach. Alan is more
than willing to work with the officers of the council and to make amends for
any problems he has caused.
Chester Amphitheatre Trust would be pleased to be working actively with officers
and councillors in forwarding the aims of the project.
Dr Liane Smith and Alan Williams, Chester Amphitheatre
4/8/00 It is my understanding that a private owner of a Grade II listed
building can expect to be held to account for the proper maintenance and
appearance of the structure.
I assume that when the city council accepted ownership of the Grade II listed
Dee House, the property was in reasonable order. The recent fire at Dee House
has served to increase the city council's problems.
Your recent report (Chronicle, July 28, 'Cash fears over Dee House bill')
states that the Chester City Council has a statutory responsibility to keep
Dee House in good repair, that provision in the council's budget will have to
be made to keep the building watertight, and that the estimated cost for this
will be almost £250,000.
I would welcome answers to the following questions:
1. What steps has the city council taken to date to maintain the structural
soundness of Dee House?
2. What provision has been made by the city council for proper and adequate
3. What amount of insurance is payable to the city council in order that the
fire damage be repaired?
4. How does the city council propose to raise the sum of £250,000 to make the
5. What responsibility will the city council take to maintain the structural
soundness of Dee House?
Present interest in Dee House highlights the degree of neglect for which the
city council has a responsibility.
Frances Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington, Chester
11/8/00 The move led by Cllr Graham Proctor, requesting Chester Amphitheatre
Trust to set out a detailed plan for the excavation of the amphitheatre, is
most welcome. This was the outcome of a recent meeting of the city council's
leadership board. The outline of such a business plan has already been agreed
at a recent meeting of the Trust's finance committee.
We recognise the importance of establishing a comprehensive, detailed and professionally
presented plan. To this end we are in discussion with a commercial organisation
that specialises in this work and has the expertise to help us deliver such
Cllr Proctor also seeks this proposal by the end of the summer. We believe it
is unrealistic to expect this to be put together in that timescale. To produce
a plan of quality and depth requires the input of the city council itself and
other knowledgable individuals and organisations. We could spend a lot of time
and money putting together something that might be unacceptable for some reason.
We need to be sure that the basic plan is correct, which means consulting with
these groups before moving forward. We received a very enthusiastic endorsement
from the experts we have consulted so far. Having many years of experience of
creating viable and profitable tourist attractions, they believe this project
can become profitable at an early stage.
The uniqueness and popularity of Chester as a tourist attraction they see as
a major catalyst. Clearly, a fundamental aspect of the credibility and viability
of the scheme is adequate funding. Our plans will contain detailed information
about this aspect which we are sure will stand up to scrutiny.
We believe the vast majority of the people of Chester would like to see this
project succeed. The correspondence columns of this newspapers (and internet!)
bear witness to the underlying groundswell of public support.
We are at an exciting but critical stage of this project. We believe that if
all parties can work together, we can all create yet another magnet for this
unique city. The whole spectrum of the community would benefit, from large corporate
businesses, hoteliers, retailers and small businesses, to every Chester resident.
Help us make it happen.
Brian Blake, Finance Committee Member, Chester Amphitheatre
| On a coping stone once situated on top of the 12-foot high arena wall was found the insciption SERANO LOCVS: 'Seranus' place'- doubtless inscribed there by a regular attender in order to reserve his favourite seat.
11/8/00 To be or not to be? That is the question relating to
paradoxical situations arising from the amphitheatre debate.
Liane Smith, referring to Paul Maddock's largely hypothetical academic project
for excavation and development of the entire amphitheatre site, states (Chronicle,
August 4) that Mr Maddock's model, with extra items added, "illustrates the
key features we would aim for as our ultimate vision over a period of a couple
It is pertinent to ask whether the ultimate vision relates to an expectation
of achieved excavation and development of the entire amphitheatre site by the
year 2020, or whether by the year 2020 the ultimate vision will have become
clear and relate to changed perceptions and parameters.
Alan Williams's letter to Christine
Russell MP states, "Our final option will be to question the sensibilities
of the UK judiciary at European and international level. This is a solemn promise
and neither Liane nor I will be swayed until the building work is stopped".
The Trust recently announced a plan to break the deadlock over the county court
building- a six-point 'win-win' solution to involve the Trust, the Lord Chancellor's
Office and the developer in formal offers, agreements to place a hold on the
building, land swap proposals, and requests for details of associated costings.
However, on June 28, the Lord Chancellor, responding to a Parliamentary question
in the House of Lords, claimed that "all appropriate approvals for the
court, being built on part of the unexcavated amphitheatre behind Dee House,
had been obtained".
On July 5, city councillors decided to apply for consent to demolish Dee House
in favour of a fuller excavation of the amphitheatre site. The council is legally
obliged to maintain Dee House in a weatherproof condition (at a likely cost
of £210,000 this year) until a final decision on its future demolition or renovation
Cllr John Price has condemned the council's decision as "cobbled together
deal with huge conflicts". Cllr David Evans has described the financial
implications as "interesting", stressing, "We have always known
we had an obligation to keep Dee House in order, yet it appears we have nothing
in tho budget to do this". Interesting is not an adjective I would choose!
We learn from Liane Smith and Alan Williams that the Chester Ampitheatre Trust
has declared a move into a new phase of its project, with a fresh start needed
and a different approach. I await further developments with interest.
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington
11/9/00 Having read the reports on the amphitheatre, I am left confused.
Whilst it is more than likely that the demolition of Dee House, as a result
of the vote in full council on July 5, will have to go to an inquiry, I cannot
agree with Andy Farrall on the inevitability of English Heritage and the Secretary
of State taking the view that this is a listed building at risk.
How so sure, Mr Farrall? Is it not even more plausible that these two bodies
will view the reason for demolition very favourably, as did the City of Chester,
albeit late, taking decisive action to display and protect the national monument
that it holds in trust for the nation- the amphitheatre?
English Heritage's stringent criterion- 'net heritage gain'- can be quite logically
applied here now that the full excavation of the site is on the table.
Another source of confusion is the true position of the Dee House finances.
The council has a legal obligation to keep Dee House watertight and in reasonable
repair- it must have done this year on year. The repair of fire damage to the
roof has recently been completed and presumably was paid for from insurance.
Mr Gover, the council's head of culture, stated in his report that the annual
maintenance cost of the buildings is met by the charges for car parking on its
forecourt. Therefore, why is the figure of £210,000 produced by the council
officers? There are no new costs as far as I can see.
Could it be that this item was already consigned to the tender ministrations
of David Maclean in Mr Farrall's mind?
We, the citizens of Chester, have realised, alas, that we must be vigilant on
all matters relating to the amphitheatre. It is very important now and in the
future that we do not allow ourselves to be frightened, bamboozled and deflected
by rumours of fabulous costs involved in the long haul towards full excavation
of the amphitheatre.
Wyn Holroyd, Stocks Lane, Boughton, Chester
11/9/00 To all the Jeremiahs who said that it be impossible to excavate
the Chester Amphitheatre because it would be impossible to get permission
to demolish Dee House, I am the conveyor of some happy news.
The Rt Hon John Prescott, proud son of Chester and Secretary of State
for the Environment, Transport, Carpetlaying and the Regions, has granted consent
for the demolition of Sandown Hall, a listed, Georgian mansion in Liverpool.
English Heritage opposed the granting of the permission.
I do believe debates should be conducted in an honest fashion, unclouded by
misleading tales of the impossible.
Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton, Tushingham Hall, Tushingham
22/9/00 I have taken a break from monitoring suggestions for the development
of the amphitheatre site to support the campaign for the establishment of a
network of officially approved leprechaun road crossings in the Republic of
The sole present crossing is to be found in the Killarney National Park. Supporters
of the campaign attribute the declining population of leprechauns to the increased
road traffic arising from the EU development grants. Opponents claim that leprechaun
numbers are, in fact, increasing and will continue to do so, given that the
production of poteen has recently been legitimised.
On my return to Chester I find that the eminently practical approach of The
Chronicle to amphitheatre matters is gaining strength. Alan Williams of
the Chester Amphitheatre Trust wrote to Christine Russell MP in May, solemnly
promising 'to question the sensibilities of the UK judiciary at European and
international levels' and stating that neither Liane Smith nor he would be swayed
until building work on the courthouse was stopped.
On August 4 we learned from Dr Smith and Alan Williams of a fresh start and
a different approach. These have led to the issue of the trust's project plan Steps to Success which outlines an excavation plan that the trust hopes
would gain the support of English Heritage.
The trust has recognised the need for a viable excavation plan. The suggested
plan has a target estimate of up to £600,000. At the inaugural meeting of the
trust on April 5 it was suggested that an initial sum of £250,000 would not
be impossible to raise. Dr Smith now believes that company sponsorship could
provide a large proportion of the cash now needed. Thus the financial aspect
would appear secure. The trust's present emphasis on viability accords closely
with your campaign to achieve the fullest possible excavation of the amphitheatre
Maybe we can now look forward to a new slogan- 'Amphitrust is go'!
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington
Now go on to the next selection of letters about the Chester amphitheatre...