A 1,300-STRONG petition calls for council chiefs to convert the former Odeon into a theatre and cinema.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is still considering whether to choose the Odeon site or build a brand new building on the Little Roodee car park.

Retailers and publicans, backed by the Odeon Action Group, including former MP Christine Russell, collected signatures to persuade the authority to go for the Odeon option, arguing it will boost city centre trade.

Ms Russell, who handed the petition to culture executive member Cllr Stuart Parker, said: “We believe putting this building in the heart of the historic city would be a better location for a cultural venue than the Little Roodee car park site.”

She argued the Odeon location would mean that for every £1 spent at the box office, £2 would be spent in the city centre.

In contrast, she said of the Little Roodee alternative: “People will drive there, park , see the performance, get in their car and drive off again, with very little economic benefit for the city centre.”

Neil Owens, co-owner of The Coach House, believes a theatre at the Odeon would also fit into a cultural quarter alongside other venues including the upgraded town hall Assembly Rooms and the cathedral.

Cllr Parker promised the people of Chester: “We are going to have a theatre.” But he would not be drawn on the favoured location out of the Odeon, the Little Roodee and a third option, put forward by former Lord Mayor Jim Latham, to build a theatre in the bus exchange area. He hopes a decision can be made in about September.

Archaeologists are due to dig trial trenches at the Little Roodee in the next few weeks to gather information as part of the assessment process.