Dunelm House application for listed status to be reviewed again as support gathers

By Jack Reed

The campaign to get Durham’s Student Union building listed was strengthened after a decision was made to review the evidence regarding its status.

Following the initial decision not to grant Dunelm House listed status last year by Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley, there has been considerable support against this ruling. An appeal calling for a review into the plans was launched by the Twentieth Century Society earlier this year.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Culture has now stated a review of the evidence would be taking place to decide whether the controversial building should be listed or not.

Dunelm House was declined listed status in December, with Bradley saying she was disposed to approve an application by the University for a certificate of immunity from listing.

Nevertheless, the 1960s brutalist structure has received much support over the past few months, forcing pressure on the government department to review their decision.

Following the announcement, the ‘Save Dunelm House’ campaign posted on social media that the news was “fantastic.”

Jane Robinson, Chief Operating Officer at Durham University stated: “No final decision has been made regarding the future use of Dunelm House.”

The University’s advocacy for the demolition of the building stems around its plans to move the students’ union to a new location as part of a redevelopment project of New Elvet.

Earlier this year, a spokesman from the University stated: “Given that Dunelm House is not able to accommodate new uses or to endure without very considerable investment in its redesign and repair, estimated at £14.7m, the University considers that the practical and responsible decision would be for us to work with statutory bodies and local residents to achieve the replacement of this building.”

Should Dunelm House be demolished, the University has planned to hold an international architectural competition to design a new performance space for students.  

However, defenders of the building say it is a fantastic example of brutalist architecture, symbolic of 1960s designs and intertwined with the adjacent Kingsgate Bridge, which has Grade I status. Campaigners argue both structures complement one another and represent the heritage of the era.

The Twentieth Century Society has organised a conference that is based around brutalist architecture in Durham this October, with a specific focus on Dunelm House. This will be held on 21st October at Elvet Riverside and entry is free.

Photograph by Rob Hardyman

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