A new theatre for Chester would have been delivered by the Northgate Development,
had it been signed off as planned in July 2008. Since that did not happen and
negotiations to achieve it have dragged on for a long time, it would surely be better to
delay a little longer rather than to make the wrong choice.
The Council has rejected what is by far the best proposal, that drawn up by James
Latham, for a new theatre behind the imposing façade of the library. It would appear
that the main reason for rejection is that the Council has focused on getting details
about the other two proposed sites, the little Roodee and the old Odeon cinema,
and lacks the stamina to look any further. However, James Latham, an architect
by profession, and his team, have prepared detailed drawings and costings and this
proposal is estimated to cost about £20 million as opposed to the estimate for the
Odeon of about £43 million. The Odeon is in any case clearly not in any way an ideal
building to convert into a theatre, although its acquisition is very welcome as a place
to foster other aspects of the arts.
In view of the economic arguments, it is hard to believe that any sane organisation
would have rejected such a proposal had it not been for the fact that some of the land
proposed for this building currently belongs to ING. So it seems that Chester, having
been forced to lose all the public realm gains that a new Northgate Development
would have brought (Theatre, Market, Library, Bus Station and Council Offices) the
final humiliation is that, having found a perfect site for the new theatre, that is also
torn from our grasp by the dead hand of ING still influencing events in a city that they
have failed to benefit in any way.
As Stephen Langtree wrote in a recent letter to the Chronicle, ‘to hell with ING’.
Is it not time for us as residents of Chester to ensure that the Council takes another
look at the situation? The Government’s Localism Act, which has just gone through
Parliament, asks citizens to take their local authorities to task when they are failing to
achieve what the people want. There has been massive support for this proposal. Let
the will of the people be heard.