THE controversial Gorse Stacks building is to go before a planning committee at the end of the month.
A detailed application for the new Chester City Council HQ on the Gorse Stacks car park will go before the committee on Wednesday, March 31.
The £15m 8,500 square metre multi-storey building designed by award-winning architect Ian Simpson has divided the city into two schools of opinion - those who love it and those who loathe it.
Those who favour it have hailed its 'unique design', calling it 'something for the 21st Century' and 'a gateway building into the city' with a revolutionary and 'sympathetic structure'.
Its enemies, meanwhile, have been less flat-tering, hurling stones at its 'glass house' design, calling it a 'monstrosity' and believing it to be an eyesore sited in the 'wrong place' and more at home in Manchester or Birmingham.
A model of the structure has been on show at The Forum in Northgate Street and the plans have been well-thumbed by the public, who are keen to see the impact of the building.
The city council is caught between a rock and a hard place as it has to vacate The Forum and make way for the £200m Northgate Development, which developer Real Estate ING is to start next year.
The spotlight on the huge overhaul linked to department store House of Fraser being poised to take up space within the Northgate proposals has been shifted by the speculation and heated debate on the £15m proposed council HQ.
In January The Chronicle spoke to architect Ian Simpson, whose name is synonymous with Manchester's Urbis building and the imminent Hilton hotel in Manchester, purported to be one of the tallest in Europe.
He said of the proposed building for Chester 'we don't want this to be a missed opportunity' and 'we have come up with a design that is unique, with a sensible budget'. All too aware of the controversy the building courted, he called for a 'balanced conversation' from Cestrians.
Letters poured into Chronicle House with split opinions, while councillors from opposing parties have been caught up in a volley of heated words.
Recent examples have been Chester City Conservative Group spokesman Mike Poole and Deputy Leader John Price, a Labour councillor, who clashed over Gorse Stacks.
Cllr Poole wrote to The Chronicle recently and said: 'It is a premature decision in the light of the referendum on regional government that will happen in the autumn of this year. If there is a 'Yes' vote in the referendum it will trigger a wholesale reorganisation of local government for the North West.
'Until we know the outcome we should not be committing ourselves to spending millions on this crystal castle. Put it off until we know what will happen.
'We need proper public consultation on how much should be allocated to the various projects, such as the new theatre, market hall and council offices. It looks to me as though far too much is being spent on a palace of vanities.
'I have to wonder what sort of a message this sends out to the people of Chester.'
He added: 'Gorse Stacks is prime real estate and there should be a debate about whether most of them could be found a more appropriate location.'
Cllr John Price reacted and said: 'Cllr Poole has deliberately misunderstood the true facts and seems bent on jeopardising the Northgate Project, which will bring huge economic and cultural benefits to the city.
'In light of the competition from Manchester city centre, the Trafford Centre, Liverpool city centre and other retail centres, Chester desperately needs this new development.
'The scheme cannot go ahead without the city council relocating to new offices and, whatever happens with LGR, the building will be a viable, saleable asset.
'As we have said many times before, the developer ING will be paying for any new council office, so this is not public money which can be used elsewhere. Cllr Poole knows this.
'His cheap soundbites will only undermine this vital redevelopment, which has widespread support in all political groups on the city council.'
Bob Clough-Parker, secretary of Chester Business Club, chipped into the debate this week by urging members to reject the building at this month's planning meeting.
He said: 'The risk is that if, in their infinite wisdom, the city fathers do opt for this 'green-house' scheme Chester could end up being ridiculed rather than praised.
'I can't help but think that there's more than a touch of 'the king's new clothes' in all of this. A trendy architect produces a fancy design and local planners and politicians alike - not wishing to appear out of touch or old-fashioned - go along with the charade. Instead, they should be pointing out that it's absolutely ghastly.
'If this scheme goes ahead as proposed, these people will deserve all the sleepless nights they will undoubtedly get.'
If it is rejected, the council will have to go back to the drawing board, with time ticking against it. If approved, the debate over the new headquarters will continue to rage on.