A horror attraction may go to Wrexham instead of Chester after the businessman behind the idea said the opening hours imposed by the council make it unviable.
Ed Walley, owner of The Crocky Trail at Waverton, hoped to open The Chester Dungeon at 51 Watergate Street in a vacant shop.
But Mr Walley, who addressed members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee, was “disappointed” after councillors gave permission but restricted the hours of opening until 8pm Sunday to Thursday and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays – he had wanted to open until midnight.
Mr Walley, a former Lib Dem city councillor, criticised the “Tory council” saying it had proved it was not pro-business and he “might try Wrexham” instead.
He said in a statement: “Ed Walley, owner of The Crocky Trail, says it’s a terrible decision and the city centre attraction will not now go-ahead. The dungeon would have been open when Chester is full of shoppers and office workers and close when people go into town for a night out.
“Hen parties and stag parties never start before 8pm. People generally don’t go out until 9pm. Chester has no theatre, no cinema but has places like Telford’s and Alexander’s, none of them could survive with an 8pm closing. The council must be more pro-business or the city will die.”
Plans showed a maze-style lay-out within a former ladies’ boutique in Watergate Street, featuring pop-up figures plus a soundtrack with “heart beats and spooky music” but with no amplified sound audible in the street.
The applicant’s report stated: “The dungeon atmosphere is created by sound track, semi-darkness and an unpredictable maze. Pop up figures are automated by light beams. Ghosts move and skeletons rattle.”
Mr Walley told councillors: “York has a dungeon, London has two dungeons, Blackpool has a dungeon, Chester, with all its history, doesn’t have a dungeon, yet. This will be good for the city, it will be good for Watergate Street.”
He said Watergate Street used to be known for its boutiques and antique shops but its character had changed. “It comes alive at night and that’s my market,” he said. “It won’t accelerate this change but it won’t resist it either.”
But Labour leader and city centre councillor Samantha Dixon was worried about the impact on city centre residents in terms of noise and disturbance and mourned the loss of another retail unit.
She continued: “The applicant, who currently runs premises in a rural setting, needs to be forced by you to adhere to the strongest safety standards before being given consent to change the use of these premises, which may end up with panicky, excitable people, who have had a few drinks, in a dark and confusing environment.”
She added: “Please don’t let this become another sign that Watergate Street is fast becoming the cousin of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach.”
Committee member Cllr Eleanor Johnson, said: “Knowing that area and knowing the amount of anti-social behaviour that goes on down Watergate Street, from the bars and clubs that exit onto that area, I would like to move the restricted opening hours.”