It’s that time again – when Chester ’s buildings are judged good, bad or ugly in the alternative New Year Honours.
Every year Chester Civic Trust – the guardians of the built environment – announces its verdict not only on building design but on many aspects of urban life including grot-spots but also cultural spectaculars.
This year the chairman’s special award went to The Ark Sculpture Exhibition at Chester Cathedral which won national acclaim and attracted international coverage.
An audience at the Civic Trust HQ in Bishop Lloyd’s Palace learned judges were unanimous in their praise of the quality of the exhibition and the fact entry was free which ‘encouraged and achieved widespread engagement’.
Civic Trust chair and former Chester Labour MP Christine Russell said: “Those of you who had the opportunity to go – it was so imaginative and innovative – and it had national coverage and everything.”
Those receiving ‘Good’ awards were the Storyhouse cultural centre; a new ’simple and elegant’ building in River Garden, Sandy Lane observable from the meadows and the renovated Wesley Methodist Church in St John Street which is ‘no longer a traditional but a versatile and attractive space’.
‘Commended’ was the opening of Chester Castle to the public over the summer; the re-opening of the Rocky Lane walkway between Parkgate Road and Liverpool Road after a four-year saga and, controversially, the new bus interchange at Gorse Stacks, which is not to everyone’s taste.
In the hall of shame, receiving ‘Bad’ awards, were The Rows and City Walls for ‘a decline in the standards of maintenance’ and ‘noise in the city centre’ due to amplified music from public spaces such as The Rows.
Holding the same dubious honour were The Flat Shed by Taylor’s Boatyard – highlighted in the hope something will be done given its ‘disuse and decay’ – and Dee House because nothing has happened despite a deal struck between the council and Daniel Thwaites PLC to transform the derelict building into an upmarket hotel.
There were a few mentions that will have made Cheshire West and Chester Council deputy leader Cllr Louise Gittins take note as a guest at the proceedings. Along with Dee House, there were harsh words for the derelict bus exchange in Princess Street, officially branded ‘Ugly’, together with signage for the Station News shop by the entrance to the council-run bus station.
Rearing its head within the ‘Ugly’ category for the second year in a row was the ‘terrible state of the upper floor’ at the Off the Wall bar in St John Street, which judges felt was ‘once again worthy of note’.