A campaign to dig out Chester’s amphitheatre is gathering momentum.
An open letter signed by 55 local business owners has now been sent to Cheshire West and Chester Council and its Labour leader Samantha Dixon.
They are urging CWaC to realise the potential of the site as a tourist attraction.
It comes on the back of a petition to uncover the remaining half of the amphitheatre gaining more than 7,000 signatures.
The open letter reads: “It is essential to realise there are only a handful of Roman amphitheatres in the world and none in the UK are as historically important or as large as Chester Amphitheatre.
“It has the potential to make the city an international must-see destination and, combined with the city’s rich Roman history, it represents a unique opportunity for Chester’s economy.
“Development of the land will ruin this opportunity.
“At the same time, of grave concern to us is the fact there is a high risk repair work to the foundations of Dee House will in fact damage the nationally important archaeological remains beneath. If this occurs, who will be held responsible?”
The situation is made more complicated by the fact the Dee House, which stands above the site, is grade-II listed.
CWaC will vote on the 18th-century building’s future next month after the decision was ‘called in’ by the Tory opposition.
They have been advised to protect it by Historic England, who say any digging out of the amphitheatre would be unfruitful.
A Historic England spokeswoman said: “Excavations of the buried remains of the Roman amphitheatre carried out between 2004 and 2006 showed only fragments survive as most of the stonework had previously been removed for re-use elsewhere.
“These excavations increased our understanding of the design and development and it is unlikely further excavation will increase that understanding.
“It is also highly unlikely further excavation will expose anything which can be displayed without a very high level of reconstruction.
“Most of the walls on display today are 20th century reconstructions of what was once there.”
Handing Dee House over to a developer, potential plans include a hotel and offices, could see its future set in stone for the next 150 years.
The letter continues: “We recognize English Heritage’s current view is the site should remain covered for future generations to uncover with new techniques.
“However, we feel this is not only short-sighted but it will negatively impact upon our generation today, and if correct, this suggests English Heritage has little value in today’s archaeological discoveries.
“We feel this policy will in fact change decades before the site will become available in 150 years if the council’s proposal is actioned.”
Either way, the debate is sure to rumble on.
Historic England added: “The demolition of Dee House would be contrary to Government policy and would not, in our opinion, be justified by the desire to uncover further remains of the amphitheatre.
“We support CWaC’s efforts to find a viable use for Dee House.
“Dee House is rightly listed Grade II as a building of national importance and it is an integral part of Chester’s history."
You can read the full open letter here.
What do you think of this story? Let us know in the comments below.