When we heard that the local council’s partners had withdrawn from the development agreement for Dee House CHBPT decided to step in to see if we could help.
This Grade II Listed building was built in four phases commencing with an important 18th century townhouse which forms the core of the current building. It was extended for a religious order by Edmund Kirby in the neo-Gothic style with a later wing to the west in a ‘Georgian’ style. The low range of buildings above Souter’s Lane is 20th century but the key thing to note about Dee House is that it was built over Chester’s Roman Amphitheatre, only rediscovered in the early 20th century and partially excavated after the road to Newgate was diverted around it.
Dee House is in a sorry state having been abandoned by British Telecom and acquired by the then local council for “public benefit” but the recent withdrawal of the partner developer was the last straw and we saw CHBPT as a possible vehicle for its rescue. The Architectural Heritage Fund agreed and grant aided a Project Viability Report but we were surprised at the outcome of the study by Conservation Architects Donald Insall Associates. In parallel, Cheshire West and Chester Council had set up a working group to explore the best way forward and we worked in partnership with everyone to come to the same conclusion.
We had thought that ownership by a community group might be CHBPT’s obvious route, but we soon discovered that the poor building is in a dangerous condition, damaged by fire, dry rot and internal collapse. For a conservation group to recommend partial demolition of an 18th century Listed building might appear contradictory but in fact it is the only way to remove a large conservation deficit and make the building safe, economically viable and ready to take on a new life.
Cheshire West and Chester Council accepted our recommendation, through the working party and has heroically risen to the challenge and submitted a September 2021 Listed Building Consent for a strip-out, salvage and stabilisation project ahead of trying to find a new partner developer. Our advice is that in return for this public investment a significant element of public access and interpretation was to be included in any future redevelopment proposal.
Our full report is available. if you would like an electronic copy please contact us.