On our holiday we visited your historic city and were really delighted what
we've seen here: the rows, the cathedral, the wall with its gates, the Roodee
and other well-kept historic buildings.
We were surprised to see that you have a Roman amphitheatre too. The day we
visited it we saw men removing the banner 'Save our amphitheatre'. We thought
about it and asked ourselves what 'save' means. Does it mean keeping it as it
is now? Or is there a movement that wants to develop it?
We could imagine a reconstructed amphitheatre with lots of opportunilies for
concerts, plays and other cultural events and for architectural and historic
You have the chance (other cities envy you). Why not use it?
Claudia Pleyer and Udo Becker, Eisenach Germany
16/6/00 I enclose the coupon re: the excavation of Chester's
Roman amphitheatre. What an unhappy business this all is. It is quite unbelievable!
I understand that the HQ of the Police Authority is to be moved to be more central
in Cheshire. Presumably, if this is so, that ghastly
building opposite the castle will be
pulled down. Could the new court not be built on that site, so that all the
court areas would be together in one part of Chester? Or is this too simplistic?
Sheila Jones, Foxglove Close, Huntington, Chester
16/6/00 I am just writing to add my support to your campaign to excavate
the Chester Roman Amphitheatre. All the arguments have been well-rehearsed,
but it seems to me that we have such a unique opportunity here that building
should be halted if at all possible. We have the chance to reveal a treasure
of importance to Chester and to the UK. I hope you are successful.
The Rev J A Roberts, Overpool Road, Whitby, Ellesmere
16/6/00 Your readers may think that everything that could
be said about the amphitheatre debacle has already been said.
But pray let Cicero have the last word: O tempora, O mores!
Alan E Comyns, Churchward Close Chester
16/6/00 I think that the amphitheatre site should be excavated.
But keep digging in the middle and bury that monstrous matchbox masquerading
as the Police HQ. What a find for our descendants in a millennium or two!
I doubt if I shall be alive to see it, but eating all these GM foods I might
be grazing there as a sheep. Baa!
Don Musto, Vicars Cross, Chester
16/6/00 I applaud the campaign to excavate our amphitheatre and commend the careful wording which calls on all interested bodies to work
together to achieve its fullest possible excavation.
The plea, if successful, will fulfil the Chester Amphitheatre Trust's latest
idea of a win-win solution. Even if the county court building is completed on
its present site we could enjoy the creation of a more spectacular amphitheatre.
The campaign is reminiscent of the earlier 'Remove the Town Hall Flagpoles'
campaign. It is to be hoped that this time the city fathers will give proper
regard to the demands of public opinion.
Additionally, success requires not only signatures, but also financial support.
Many of those who sign up to the campaign add to the Chester Amphitheatre Trust's
funds by becoming members.
There are, of course, other ways in which the cause can be forwarded. Much excitement
in the city is in store, including the Midsummer Watch Parade on June 24 and
25 and special half-hour millennium performances of the Chester Mystery Plays
from June 24 to July 30. An Amphitheatre Trust's input on the periphery of these
events would not come amiss.
A Trust Rally is to take place on July 2 at the amphitheatre, proceeding to
the Town Hall.
Your June 9 headline 'The Lord Chancellor in the cart', referring to John Gummer's
recent Estates Gazette article, was inspired. It offers further opportunity
for amphitheatre supporters to present their ideas and gain more widespread
Mid-16th century interest was expressed in including Roman material in the Chester
Mystery Play cycle. Extra to the Octavian census and Pilate's Play Cycle there
could be opportunity to stage a brand new Mystery Play. Costumes are readily
available; creative skills abound; the proactivity of the Chester Amphitheatre
Trust is legion. The presentation could follow the medieval tradition of taking
place on a moveable stage- a decorated wagon or cart which would stop at various
points for the play to be performed, eg Abbey Gates, High Cross, Watergate Street
and Bridge Street. The performances could be announced by a herald reading Banns,
while accompanied by some of the actors in costume. The play could feature a
Lord Chancellor character proclaiming a need to replace the amphitheatre by
building something modern and utilitarian. The rest of the cast would support
preservation/reconstruction as an important feature of city life and cultural
One thing is certain: Chester must succeed with a further restoration of the
amphitheatre (partial or complete) and the creation of an amphimuseum!
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington, Chester
16/6/00 Should the Iaw be upheld, or should it be swept under
the concrete? The long-term aspiration of the city council in Chester has
been to obtain full ownership of the amphitheatre site, with a view to its excavation.
This aim is enshrined in several paragraphs of the Local Plan, which gives the
policy of the city towards development.
This policy document, active in 1995, specifically states that any developmont
on the whole of the amphitheatre site should be for tourism purposes and should
aim towards excavation of the site. Speculative office developments were not
allowed at that time, yet the planning permission given states it is for 'offices-
user unspecified'. Evidently these local policies were ignored or specifically
set aside at the time that planning permission was given for offices to be built
on the amphitheatre in 1995.
Now we learn that the council is recommended by its Resources Board to approve
the granting of a 200 year lease on Dee House to David McLean Developments
Ltd. The developer will refurbish it, at his cost. This effectively gives control
of the unexcavated part of the amphitheatre into the hands of one company for
the next two centuries- a situation which this council fought against in 1994
when it requested BT to withdraw the whole Dee House site from sale by auction.
Nevertheless, the idea has the support of the Leadership Board of the council
which resolved in October I999 that "Approval be given for the council to work
with David McLean Developmenls Ltd to deliver the redevelopment of Dee House
and Contract Rules be waived as far as necessary in order to negotiate a
deal with the named party."
Is this waiving of rules justifiable, or indeed, just? Is this how we all expect
the city council to be run? If Chester's amphitheatre site can be built upon
and Dee House handed over for office development, with all the policy safeguards
which supposedly surround that site, the messages are clear:
1. It is a green light to any developer to build what they like in Chester
2. Government legislation and policies, local and national, are not worth the
paper they are written on
3. There is a crisis of leadership in Chester City Council.
Chester Amphitheatre Trust has proposed a way to resolve this crisis without
recourse to legal action, without costs to the individual citizens of Chester
and without apportioning any blame to individuals. Lack of urgent action by
the city council in response only reinforces the third conclusion above.
Dr Liane Smith, Mount Way, Waverton, Chester
23/6/00 When I was 10 years or so old, I learned that all
the cities in England whose names ended in the suffix '-chester' were originally
Roman. Well, what could be more Roman in origin than a city whose entire name
I finally got to visit that magical city last summer but learned to my dismay
that much of its Roman antiquities had been destroyed.
While planning a return trip to Chester, I learned of the plans to erect yet
another building atop part of vour Roman amphitheatre. I still find this hard
to believe. Surely this site can be better used?
I am reminded of what happened in my home town, San Antonio, Texas, some 80
years ago. Our city fathers wanted to encase the San Antonio river in concrete
culverts and pave the result over to form a new street. The citizens got wind
of this plan, organised themselves and prevented the planned travesty. Today,
San Antonio depends heavily on the international tourist trade and our most
attractive asset is the Riverwalk, which borders the meandering San Antonio
river with walkways, bridges, shops, and restaurants. There is even an amphitheatre there, with the stage on one side of the river and the audience on the other
(obviously, it's not a large river). Passenger barges ply the river and tourists
mingle with locals there every day. We almost lost this treasure because our
officials had no vision.
If such a wonder could be created from a muddy, weed-choked ditch, imagine what
wonders could arise from an excavated Roman amphitheatre? It will be a sad day
indeed if the planned construction of the court building proceeds.
John Schulze, San Antonio, Texas, USA
23/6/00 Determination to move the amphitheatre cause forward was again shown in Chester city centre during the morning of Saturday June 17,
when Dr Liane Smith and her colleagues were gathered by the Cross to collect
signatures for a petition in support of Chester Amphitheatre Trust's aims.
The response demonstrated something of the depth of support among those who
signed the petition as compared with the strength of opposition or apathy among
those who did not.
During two and three quarter hours of canvassing, 1,000 signatures were obtained-
an average of one signature gained every 10 seconds. If such dedication were
to be intensified during the height of the tourist season, say over a period
of 10 weeks with an input of 20 hours per week, the petition's impact and success
might be based upon up to 60,000 signatures.
There are now two sets of signatures- that of the Chronicle campaign
and that of the Trust's petition. It would be of value to learn how these two
sets are to be co-ordinated and presented to optimum effect.
Campaign and petition aside, support has been voiced for the production of a
new 'Lord Chancellor and Amphitheatre' play to be presented within the city
centre, subsequent to the Millennium Mystery Play Cycle performances. Rumour
has it that a script is now available.
Many avenues remain to be explored and difficulties to be surmounted. I propose,
in support of the Chronicle campaign and the Chester Amphitheatre Trust
petition, the 1940 wartime poster's message of "Your Courage, your Cheerfulness,
your Resolution, will bring us Victory". Courage, cheerfulness and resolution
must be the order of the day! An alternative and succinct wartime slogan would,
perhaps, be more apposite, ie "Dig for Victory".
Chester developed from the Roman vision of the vital role that Deva had to play.
Now is the time for Chester to pay homage to its Roman foundation.
Alan Bonner, Meadow Lane, Huntington, Chester
Copy of a letter to Lord Irvine of Lairg, The Lord High Chancellor, House of
Thank you for your letter dated 17th May 2000.
I was concerned about your lack of knowledge regarding the facts surrounding
the history of the amphitheatre and the courthouse that your organisation is
having built on it.
Many of the inhabitants of Chester believed that as part of the Local Plan
for Chester, published in 1988, no development whatsoever was to
be allowed over the amphitheatre and that the intention was to excavate the
You are right in your statement that the Chester Civic Trust objected to the
proposed development. They have been objecting vehemently since March 1995!
What you fail to mention is that their objections were not heeded, not even
to the extent of re-aligning the proposed building so as not to overlap the
amphitheatre below. There would have been serious local opposition if the citizens
of Chester had been consulted. As it was the matter was developed between
the City Council and David McLean, with the general public totally unaware of
Concerning the archaeological excavations on the site, these were initially
undertaken by WJ Williams back in June 1929 in the area of the proposed courthouse.
These proved the remains of the outer wall and buttresses to be well preserved.
In May 1993, British Telecom, who then owned the site, funded an archaeological
evaluation by Lancaster University. At least 40 trenches were excavated. The
report of this work, which runs to 188 pages, concludes that there appear to
be few areas of the site where no Roman remains exist. Even under Dee House-
the cellars of which only account for about four per cent ofthe total amphitheatre
site- important and substantial structural elements still exist.
The excavations to which you refer were, I believe, undertaken in 1994 by the
Chester City Archaeologist. These were primarily concerned with the deposits
which would be affected by proposals to lower the ground level over the car
parking area. They were generally confined to the topsoil layers. You would
not expect to find substantial remains of the amphitheatre at this depth. However,
it is expected that reasonable remains exist below this level. This information
is to be found in Chester's Roman amphitheatre: some facts and figures published by Chester City Council.
The ruined tower of St. John's Church is not
within the amphitheatre site as you state, but is located to the outside of
the outer wall. The total excavation of the amphitheatre would not affect this
if undertaken to the same profile as the presently-exposed portion. The tower
would actually be visually more attractive when viewed from across the other
side of the amphitheatre.
The position regarding the old convent (Dee House) is questionable. Permission
to demolish this building was granted in the 1980s, so presumably its continued
existence on this site is not sacrosanct. It would be possible to dismantle
this building for relocation elsewhere. I cannot follow your argument for keeping
only part of the monument dry, when the remaining 98% will be exposed to rainfall.
In conclusion, this courthouse, which allegedly may not have planning permission,
could be built anywhere. Why build it on top of a Scheduled Ancient Monument,
condemning the fate of the amphitheatre? Do not be fooled into thinking that
when your lease of the courthouse expires in 25 years' time the building will
be demolished. McLeans have endeavoured to ensure that the amount of car parking
associated with the building will increase at that time.
Chester will have to increasingly rely on tourism as its main attraction in
the future. Visitors will not come to look at a courthouse. Why should the residents
of Chester and countless thousands of visitors be denied this jewel in the crown
for ever? Any city can have an office block, but very few can have an amphitheatre.
I urge you to consider that you can play your part in giving Chester its amphitheatre-
while at the same time building your new courthouse, by working with Chester
City Council and David McLean to relocate to a more suitable position.
Chester Amphitheatre Trust has proposed a six-point plan to achieve the above
aim, and this is now being considered by the city council.
D Andrews, Long Lane, Waverton
23/6/00 I am writing in response to Miss Dora Taylor's letter.
She referred to the Roman amphitheatre as a saucer 'dip' in the land and then
said the Georgian Dee House would make a "wonderful art gallery".
Miss Taylor also wrote that "the Grosvenor Museum is said to have stacks of
paintings and no room to display them". Has Miss Taylor had her ear to the ground
and maybe heard more than most of us about what Chester City Council intends
to use Dee House for? And is she trying to break the ice into flow direction
for the use of these old rotten buildings?
Maybe the city council should make a statement of this fact now.
I am very interested to find Miss Taylor is now entering into the field of art
and painting, and art galleries for Chester. Does the lady paint or practice
any other form of art? Can we look forward to her staging a gallery of her own,
with some of her writing talents for Chester to see?
As regards an art gallery being formed in this ugly old heap of Dee House buildings
that sit on top of the main arena of the amphitheatre, the Dee House rooms are
small with bad light, hopeless for art. No! Chester needs a good, well designed
building to cover all arts for children, older people and all people of Chester-
a modern gallery, on the ground floor and first floor only, with wide access
doors and lifts for wheelchairs.
Over the last 10 years I have constantly been working through many channels
(the press, councils, art sections etc) to obtain for Chester 'The Louise Rayner
Arts Academy', covering all arts. Louise Rayner was my late husband,
W J Savage's great-great aunt; she died in 1924. I can place all the fine family
of Samuel Rayner of Derby.
Today Grosvenor Museum fully owns about 18-20 Rayner pictures it has bought
or acquired as its own property over the years. As is well known in art circles
the Grosvenor Museum is holding in care- awaiting for an inquiry of 'Rayner
Savage' ownership provenance- my late husband's Louise Rayner art collection,
passed under the will of Louise Rayner to my late mother-in-law Florence Savage
Also held in the same care with the Rayner collection is my second great art
collection- 'The John Galsworthy Bequest Collection' from old John Galsworthy's
fine home at Cambridge Gate, London. Young John Galsworthy used and wrote in
his books in four sections of The Forsyte Saga of most of these pictures now
in store at the Grosvenor Museum. One picture, Thirlmere, is now in the
New Tate, on loan from Chester.
I hate to think my two fine art collections could be hung in the ugly heap of
old Dee House over what my late husband and myself- in 1934 to 1938 when we
very young Brookhirst Drawing Office draughtsmen and women- helped Professor
Robert Newstead and his team dig behind St John's House, after work in summer
and at weekends. It was later taken down to find Roman pits and remains of seating
There is Galsworthy money somewhere in Chester to cover a new gallery from the
Chester sale to a fine London lady in 1987. And yes, I do know the great amount
of paintings now held at the Grosvenor Museum, and am so sad to think that Miss
Taylor is correct- there is no fine art gallery to hang them on the walls.
But the great value of the John Galsworthy Bequest Collection is better kept
in a bank, and not at Dee House. Sorry to say, I do not agree with Miss taylor's
comments on the amphitheatre.
Mrs Bess Savage
28/6/00 Having been on missionary work to bring a decent 'North
West' sense of humour to Dorset for the past 10 years, I have only just
found out about the idea for the Court development.
I spent 5 years working in Dee House for BT when it housed the switchboard and
repair centre. As part of my duties as Officer In Charge of the building, I
have intimate knowledge from basement to roof. I even have a Polaroid of the
building on my desk at work to this day.
I knew of the plans for the Roman Theme park which I thought were flawed but
I am dumbfounded by the latest plans- what's next ? Let's convert the Cathedral
into a nightclub !
Tony Roberts, Poole, Dorset
29/6/00 I have read about Chester; I have read about Chester's
Amphitheatre. Before giving my opinion I waited until I visited Chester.
It is a marvelous city with deep roots in an ancient past. It is also a city
that functions well today.
I cannot believe however that the citizens of Britain, who have spread their
language and culture throughout the world, would be so meek before their own
politicians. In America we call them public servants and they are expected to
perform as such.
Please preserve your amphitheatre; preserve the elements you are made of. If
you still insist on destroying it, send it to us!
Lawrence C. Gropp USA
29/6/00 I may have missed someone else making this point during
the lengthy debate on saving a key monument. But, how does the City Council
square the need to build a major administration centre with its numerous workers,
visitors and alleged law breakers in the city centre with the desire to keep
the car out of the city? Where will the court car park be? Will judges and felons
be expected to get the park & ride? I doubt it, that will be left to the jurors
and witnesses probably!
Good luck in your campaign.
A life long Cestrian
30/6/00 Last week the chief executive of Chester City Council,
Mr Paul Durham, defended his staff. Unfortunately, there are two reasons
why so many Chester people and visitors question what has been going on.
The first reason is what is perceived as the secrecy and haste with which McLeans
and the Lord Chancellor managed to get work started on the county court development
so as to beat the June 2000 deadline when the permission would have lapsed.
The second reason is a proposal that McLeans should be given a 200-year lease
if they develop Dee House.
It is not long since a council circular stressed the importance of listening
to the views of residents. Is it too late to ask them not allow any development
of Dee House?
John Wolfenden, Thackeray Drive, Chester
30/6/00 I enclose my own coupon from the Chronicle and also
a petition organised by Daniel Mumby who is 12 years old. He was inspired
to do this after hearing about the amphitheatre row in a school assembly.
I can see that there are many arguments for and against. However, it seems to
me that there are overwhelming reasons to say 'NO', even if it is rather late
in the day and may prove to be expensive. The amphitheatre is part of our historical
heritage. Nothing can replace this and if we lose it now it will not be recovered
in our lifetime, or that of my students.
Chester's popularity and economy relies on tourism which in turn relies much
on our Roman remains. The voice of the people is strongly in favour of excavation.
The government are worried about local democracy and low turnout in elections.
We ignore popular opinion on an issue which is truly local at our peril.
Last week I 'showed off' Chester to a group of visiting Swedish teachers. They
refused to believe that Chester City Council was presiding over this act of
vandalism. On reflection, so do I.
Michael Carding, Headteacher, Bishop Heber High School,
Chester Road, Malpas
30/6/00 Dear Citizens of Cheshire, I am writing to you
to tell you about a proposed petition to save Chester's amphitheatre.
The building was built nearly two millennia ago. A building company has had
planning permission from the Chester City Council to build a car park over the
remains of the amphitheatre. This would prevent any excavation for at least
a decade. If you are against it, please sign below. The names on the petition
are as follows... (names omitted)
Daniel Mumby (age12), Bishop Heber High School, Chester
30/6/00 I'm just writing to you to congratulate
you on a truly superb site! I've lived in Chester
all my life and I work for Kingkab in Bridge Street as a taxi driver, in fact
that is how I found your website, another taxi driver told me about it.
The proposed loss of our amphitheatre is disgraceful, I didn't even find out
about until I saw the banner in its original position, I'm glad that it now
hangs on the steel work of the Mill Hotel's extension. In the course of my work
I pick up (and talk) to hundreds of people per week, I am making a point of
telling them about our amphitheatre- it's amazing how many still don't know
about it. The response I'm getting, especially from overseas customers is shock
Because I travel around our city every night and see more of it than your average
Cestrian I am not totally surprised by the council, to put it bluntly they are
a bunch of incompetents especially the planning department, many of whom, most
probably, don't even live in our fine city.
Just to tell you that I for one, in my own small way, am supporting the campaign
to save our amphitheatre.
Press Release: 3 July, 2000: Prospective Conservative Parliamentary
Candidate, David Jones, today unveiled new proposals from the Conservative Party
which will transform the planning system in Chester.
Mr Jones remarked: "Planning is an emotive topic, generating a vast amount
of correspondence for MPs and councillors alike. The current planning process
is weighted against local communities and residents. The system is centralised
and bureaucratic, and increasingly results in the Secretary of State overriding
the wishes of our local councils, forcing unwanted planning decisions on local
The issue of Chester Amphitheatre is an example of the way that the old, outdated
planning procedures have failed the local community. The Conservative proposals,
when implemented, will ensure that the public will be better informed about
planning applications. There will be a legal obligation for councils to inform
in writing all local residents within a set radius of a planning application
(e.g. 50 metres, and wider for bigger developments), rather than just notifying
adjoining properties or putting up a site display notice.
The outcry over the immensely unpopular Amphitheatre development would have
been heard, and addressed, much sooner if wider publicity had been obligatory.
Conservatives pledge the biggest overhaul of the planning system for fifty years,
giving power back to the residents of Chester and taking it away from the bureaucrats
The key proposals from the Conservatives include:
Local Discretion on Local Development: Conservatives will abolish regional and
national housebuilding targets. Regional planning guidance will also be abolished.
The power of the Secretary of State to interfere in planning appeals will be
removed. Instead, local communities will decide on the appropriate level of
development in their local area. Labour's diktats forcing more housebuilding
on the countryside will be replaced with an emphasis by the Conservatives on
urban regeneration- making existing towns and cities a more attractive place
Encouraging Local Materials & Local Architecture: Conservatives want to restore
the sense of character and local identity in towns and villages. Local councils
will be allowed to specify that new developments must use specified local materials
or conform to local architecture. This will prevent a country of identikit,
uniform homes, and will ensure that new developments are in keeping with local
neighbourhoods. Sensitive areas such as Chester, which have been particularly
badly affected by inappropriate development, will particularly benefit.
A Right of Counter Appeal: Conservatives will introduce a level playing field
on planning. Currently, big developers are able to bully and out-spend local
communities, taking a proposed development to (expensive) appeals. Conservatives
will streamline the appeals system to make it quicker and more accessible. Local
residents will also be given the right of counter-appeal: being able to appeal
against a new development if the development contradicts a councils' local development
plan or if the plan was silent on a big development. This will give new powers
to local communities to protect their neighbourhoods from inappropriate development.
6/7/00 In Chester we have the Roman Walls, Hypercaust,
one half of an excavated Amphitheatre, St. Johns Church and Ruins, the Anchorite
Cell, the River Dee and the Groves. Slap bang in the middle an absolutely ridiculous
court building is being erected and even worse over part of the unexcavated
It is an area which is a vital part of the city's heritage and should be developed
for history and tourism. This ridiculous development is being funded by and
against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of taxpayers whose protestations
(including vast numbers of foreigners) are being totally ignored.
I suggest therefore that due to our total dissatisfaction as taxpayers we reserve
the right to divert payment of our taxes- council, business rates or whatever
into a 'Save Chester Amphitheatre Fund' to be free of all legal or political
influence. The fund would be utilised to establish and resolve the rights and
wishes of taxpayers and tourists in this matter until satisfactory consent of
taxpayers is expressed. The fund would be strictly controlled and audited monthly
by the Audit Commission until such times as the matter be resolved and funds
remaining to be handed back to appropriate authorities.
Save our amphitheatre and move the court!
7/7/00 Like most of the residents of the City of Chester,
I am appalled at the building works now under way over the amphitheatre.
I congratulate the Chester Amphitheatre Trust for all they are doing to halt
this ill considered development.
What the Trust is doing is what our elected representatives, our councillors,
should have done in the first place. But none of our councillors has admitted
to knowing what was implied when planning permission was given five years ago.
This implies either incompetence or, more seriously, a lack of proper briefing
from the council officials.
If it is the second, it supports the view that the council hasn't got a grip
of what its officials are doing anonymously. What is clear is that little more
than lip service is paid to the process of consultation.
But, if the present development is to be stopped, there must be a reasonable
alternative to the location of the new court. What about the two splendid buildings
in the castle complex which are currently advertised
'to let'? These buildings are the ones on the right hand side of the square
(once the Officers' Mess) and the one behind it towards County Hall. Location
of a new court here would clearly be more practical and undoubtedly more prestigious.
It would certainly be a better idea than hiding the court down the back of an
alley and on top of very special Roman remains.
S J Cooper, Hough Green, Chester
7/7/00 Perhaps Chester City Council should take a Ieaf out
of the book of Labour-controlled Erewash Borough Council in Derbyshire.
They have scrapped the post of chief executive and, with the £60,000 saved by
dividing his duties between other senior officials, are hiring five street
An article in the Daily Mail (June 22) said: 'A great deterioration in the standards
of local government can be traced back to the Sixties when town clerks began
to call themselves chief executives and delude themselves that they were on
a par with giant business corporations with all the attendant trappings'.
'Town clerk' was the perfect description of the post. It kept a man in his place
and reminded him he was a mere penpusher. Once they made him chief executive
he became too big for his boots, with a swish office, a swish car, a fancy policy
unit and a chief of communications. But did he get the streets swept? In the
case of Erewash, a council spokesman said: "Most of our complaints are
about the condition of our streets. We have mechanical sweepers, but they can't
get into nooks and crannies like a man with a broom".
Nooks and crannies are what local government used to be all about. Perhaps if
Paul Durham came down on to the streets of Chester he might hear a few more
home truths about what people really think.
Geraldine M Bell, Ashton
7/7/00 A quick read of the letters in local newspapers is
enough to convince anyone that Chester City Council has got a big credibility
problem with many of its citizens.
The large majority of its staff is, as Mr Durham says, very hardworking. Their
hard work is undermined by the collective style, manner and tactics of the council's
chief executive and senior officers, which have more in common with that of
a single party state than that of a 21st century democratic European country.
Having been present at the Head of Planning's report on April 26 about the 'change
of use' issue with the courthouse, it was only too clear that elected councillors
should assert some authority over the officers in the planning department who
appeared to be running totally out of control.
It is high time that Mr Durham began to provide some simple answers to the questions
raised by people in the papers, rather than relying upon the contortions of
the council's spin doctors, whose chief role seems to be in misleading people.
John Smith, Waverton
Oh dear! The council is upset by what Alan Williams has said about them and
their actions. He is only saying what most Cestrians are thinking. After
all, these are the people who give planning permission in the first place for
a building on top of a known and important Roman amphitheatre.
It makes you wonder what goes on, doesn't it?
Our local MP (Christine Russell) was also involved in this decision. Perhaps
it may be advisable to bring in the 'spin doctors' after the demonstration this
Sunday (illustrated right) to make her and the council's position look less
dodgy. Perhaps she will even come off the fence and do something to help Cestrians
save the amphitheatre.
Or is action too much to expect of a politician?
Michael Morris, Church Lane, Upton, Chester
7/7/00 Knock down the Chester Walls and St John the Baptist
church AD 689. A load of very old garbage. Knock the lot down so the tourists
will have nothing to look at. Just think of all the land waiting to be built
So why get rid of the amphitheatre when there's not a hamlet, town or city who
would not give their all to have one? They must think our council are nuts.
There could not be any other motive. No politician or builder would stoop so
low as to make money out of this abomination. Talk of backhanders and greasy
palms should be frowned upon.
In 100 years from now, let them rebuild the walls, amphitheatre and St John's.
Then the cycle can start again.
W Hill, Huntington
7/7/00 When Jane Kennedy writes that "In 1995 Chester
City Council decided that this development should proceed and granted full planning
permission", she obscures the central planning issue by using the ambiguous
little word 'this'.
The council did not grant permission for a courthouse but for an office
building. To the man on the Clapham omnibus, a courthouse is not an office building:
Had the citizens known in 1997 that the site was being considered for a courthouse
the outcry would have started then, but alas they did not.
Alan E Comyns, Churchward Close, Chester
7/7/00 The amphitheatre is a site of Roman occupation too valuable
to lose- locally, nationally and in a world context.
Bernadette Bowes and Virginia Bowes, Five Lanes End,
Liverpool Road Neston
14/7/00 I read Jane Kennedy's letter on the amphitheatre with great interest but would query one or two points.
Some of us have been expressing serious concern about the use of the site since
long before 1995. Reference to newspaper records would confirm this.
As to the real purpose of the rest of the letter, is it not in fact a tacit
recognition that democracy might win, is it not in fact the beginnings of making
excuses and get-outs? All the letter really does is place the whole of the blame
for what happened where we all know it should be- with Chester City Council
for their seeming secrecy and total lack of proper use of the democratic process.
How many more times must they be allowed to get away with crackpot ideas and
schemes totally at odds with what people want and then hide behind the cost
If these people really were financially responsible for their decisions, they
would have to be decided democratically and could never be secret. This is our amphitheatre, not the council's or the Lord Chancellor's. We have precious little
of Roman Chester, let's not lose another piece of it, especially one of such
One final comment on Dora Taylor's fatuous ramblings. She would no doubt want to lose all the evidence of things
like the Holocaust etc. Grow up, Dora.
Alex Woods, Great Barrow, Cheshire
14/7/00 What a wonderful result was produced at Chester City
Council's meeting last Wednesday (July 5) by the forces of democracy and
Thank goodness so many Chester city councillors are beginning to take notice
of public opinion. If only Lord Irvine of Lairg was as democratic.
Recently, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, claimed that local councils
were subject to so much government control that they had no more independence
than the Vichy regime in France under the Nazis.
He accused 'aliens' in the Treasury of undermining local government and said
they treated democratically elected people with contempt.
Mr Livingstone told the newspaper of the Local Government Association that it
was time for a fightback from councils.
Many people will be astonished to find they agree with Ken Livingstone, as I
Peter Moore Dutton, Tushingham
14/7/00 Can someone explain why the two empty Cheshire
Regiment buildings in the Castle Square couldn't be used for a new court?
There's space and access and parking and they are very dignified buildings.
A friend was last week brandishing a picture of the market
hall, which was demolished in 1967. People wouldn't believe that it
could have been legally demolished.
Anne Stewart, Saughall
21/7/00 Chester Amphitheatre Trust supports the full excavation
of the Roman amphitheatre because it believes that this is what the vast
majority of people in Chester want. The trust is currently setting up a special
fund to pay for the archaeological works and expects to raise more than £200,000
It is very important for the future of our historic city that the demolition
or relocation of Dee House and the relocation of the new county court building
are given a fair hearing. Your letters page last week carried three letters supporting the retention of Dee House in one form or another.
I I am concerned that some supporters of Dee House have other things in mind.
There is a small but outspoken minority of people who support the retention
of Dee House because it will hide the ugly facade of the new county court. These
people should declare their true interest and join the fight to move the court
building. The debate over the future of Dee House must be open and honest to
ensure that the final decision takes account of the true feelings of all Cestrians.
It was a mistake to allow the new court development. It will be a disgraceful
mistake if public opinion is ignored to ensure that the court is kept hidden
by Dee House.
Alan Williams, Vice-chairman, Chester Amphitheatre
21/7/00 Many thanks to the hundreds of people who turned out to demonstrate against the Lord Chancellor's decision to build a courthouse
and car park on top of Chester's amphitheatre. Thanks, too, to all the 6,000
people who took the trouble to sign our petition requesting the Lord Chancellor
to move his court off the amphitheatre site and supporting excavation of the
I know many more people would like to sign, but we have made the point that
there is strong support, just because of the speed with which those signatures
were democratically collected- in just over 15 hours.
Sadly, petitions carry little weight, but your letters definitely do. Please
continue to write to the Lord Chancellor at the House of Lords, London SW1A
OPW, telling him that Chester will be putting together an outstanding case for
the excavation of the amphitheatre, and that his building is now the sole remaining
obstacle to achieving the aim of realising the full potential of the site.
It is now appropriate that he reconsiders his decision, in response to the democratically
expressed wish of the majority of local people, and in recogition of the great
loss to Britain in not carrying out the planned archaeological research work
to the full.
The Chester Amphitheatre Trust continues to believe that the Lord Chancellor
should find a different site for the county court. It didn't make sense to choose
the amphitheatre site when the news first came out, and it makes less sense
Dr Liane Smith, Trustee, Chester Amphitheatre Trust
28/7/00 I read with interest the letter from Dora Taylor. She may be interested to hear that I was one of the
'howling mob' mentioned in her piece. I am a software developer, I pay my taxes
and so on. How do you feel you can stereotypically class me as a mob member?
The amphitheatre wasn't placed in any old field- it was placed in what is now
Chester city centre. In the same language that stated the amphitheatre was just
a 'dip in the ground', perhaps then it would be fair to say that Dee House is
just an old building of which there are many fine examples in the UK.
It is also fair to say that there are far fewer examples of amphitheatres in
the land. After all, Buckingham Palace is just an old building- so why not knock
that down and build a car park, which would have more use to our capital? Perhaps
the palace is a point of interest throughout the globe and also part of our
national heritage. In the same vein, maybe there are far more car parks throughout
the land than there are palaces, therefore I'm sure I would rather pay money
to see the palace than a car park.
I feel that a completely excavated amphitheatre may bring in more trade to the
city centre shops, with an increased influx of visitors, than any courthouse
or car park. The extra income from the visitors could then be used to combat
complexes such as Cheshire Oaks, which is far more likely to be the cause ot
the falling city centre trade than pedestrianisation.
I am a recent addition to the population of Chester and I have to confess I
felt pride when I marched through the city centre to state my views as a member
ot this democratic nation.
Chester needs the amphitheatre. We say scrap the court, as there is always more
to be seen, and we all need to know about our heritage.
Stephen Lynch, Thomas Brassey Close, Hoole, Chester