STAGE and screen star Matthew Kelly has expressed regret that Chester will be left without a theatre until 2011.
Mr Kelly, stage manager at the Gateway in the 1970s, decided to speak out ahead of the theatre's closure at the end of this month.
It will be demolished as part of a city centre regeneration scheme but eventually replaced by a performing arts centre within a public square fronted by cafes and restaurants.
Mr Kelly, who has also acted at the Gateway, told BBC North West Tonight: 'It will be a theatre square. I think it's fantastic.
'The tragedy is what they might lose in the meantime because they will be three years without so people will have to go to the Everyman or the Playhouse in Liver pool.'
The programme featured 150 members of the Gateway Youth Theatre who will be homeless after their last show tomorrow.
Alex Wardell, learning and out-reach officer at the Gateway, said: 'We are very excited about there being a new venue in Chester.
'It's going to be great but when you approach this kind of project there is always a risk there is a lot of excitement and talk and then the practicalities don't actually measure up to what everybody was hoping would appear.'
Cllr Ann Farrell, portfolio holder for culture and leisure, claims arrangements are in place to ensure the Chester's cultural life does not grind to a halt.
She said: 'One thing we have done is we have invested heavily in a new festivals partnership and they will be putting on lots of events through the year partly to fill this gap.'
This week it also emerged that plans have fallen through for the University of Chester to use the Gateway until its demolition next June.
University spokeswoman Jayne Dodgson said: 'After due consideration, and having undertaken a detailed inspection of the premises, the University of Chester has regrettably concluded that the Chester Gateway is unsuitable for the university's purposes and it has advised Chester City Council to this effect.'