The Trust has joined the raging debate over what to do with the crumbling grade II-listed Georgian building and insists it should be preserved.
Members dismiss the opposing and popular argument in favour of demolishing Dee House to fully expose the amphitheatre.
But members are also critical of Labour-controlled Cheshire West and Chester Council’s decision to go down the commercial route by allowing the derelict building to be converted into a boutique hotel incorporating a small interpretation centre on a lengthy and controversial 150-year lease.
Instead the Trust wants the whole building turned into a visitor centre making use of latest technology to tell the story of the amphitheatre and surrounding area.
The Trust says this will only happen if control of the site stays with the local authority.
Members commend the council for putting an improved cultural offer at the centre of its strategy for Chester’s economic development and propose that, now the Storyhouse theatre is nearing completion, this should be the next major project.
Civic Trust chair Christine Russell, a former Labour MP for the City of Chester, is included in the press release which puts forward an alternative vision to that of her CWaC Labour colleagues.
She commented: “The Civic Trust has consistently opposed the demolition of Dee House, which is itself an important part of the history of Chester and of the site. Chester’s Roman heritage is important, but it is only part of the 2,000 year history of building in the city.
“The amphitheatre is in an area that includes, for example, Chester’s original cathedral and the section of walls breached in the Civil War, and it should be interpreted in this context. In any case, because of the cellars beneath Dee House, it is unlikely that any part of the amphitheatre remains beneath it.”
The Trust also expresses concern the council have not allowed wider public participation in discussions on the future of this important area and ‘consider that levels of public unease and even anger are a direct consequence of this secretive approach’.