The long-awaited announcement from Cllr Stuart Parker, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s culture and economy chief, is part of ambitious plans to regenerate Chester’s city centre.
Building contractors and specialist archaeologists will descend on Upper Northgate Street site in the middle of October to start works scheduled to end with an opening night in autumn 2016.
Cllr Parker said: “We moved heaven and earth to get the planning application before committee a month earlier than planned to ensure the best possible chance of meeting our curtain call on time.
“Those who said this day would never dawn did not reckon with the amazing support we have from the public, cultural organisations, the Arts Council and council members across the political spectrum.”
Andrew Bentley, Chester Performs chief executive, welcomed the announcement of an early start to the theatre his combined arts producing company will manage.
He said: “This determination to start work on site as early as possible, and to get ahead of schedule, will give us the very best chance of getting on stage, and in the amazing new library, as soon as we can.
“We are already advancing some of our planning on the programme to match and are eagerly looking forward to the fruits of this wonderful partnership.”
Described as the most significant capital investment in Chester for half a century, the cultural centre will include an 800-seat theatre, 100-seat cinema, fully integrated library, cafe and offices.
Opposition culture spokesman Cllr Louise Gittins said: “The start of work will be welcomed across West Cheshire. -We want the cultural centre to be a catalyst for the arts and education for all age groups right across the borough.”
Gary Wintersgill, from main contractors Kier Construction has said: “It’s an exciting time for everyone involved in the project. We are starting work on a development which will transform the former Odeon Cinema into an iconic cultural centre for Chester.
“In the interim it will also contribute widely to the community. -We will be using about 70 per cent local labour and sub-contractors, 75 per cent local materials suppliers, as well as providing a range of building trade apprenticeships and using the 38-week build time to provide engagement opportunities for local schools and colleges.”
Find out more about the plans here…