Architectural campaign group lodges appeal against plans to demolish Dunelm House

By Emma Pinckard

After a decision was made not to grant listed status to Durham University’s Students’ Union building, an appeal has been launched in an attempt to save it from demolition.

The Twentieth Century Society, an architectural campaign group, have requested a formal review of the plans.

Catherine Croft, the group’s director, was described to be ‘extremely disappointed’ and said: “We consider the award-winning Dunelm House to be a remarkably intact survivor of its era, historically and architecturally significant.”

Claire Price, senior conservation advisor for the society, said: “We think the minister should reconsider the reason not to list Dunelm House.

“We consider the issues she has ruled on are ones of repair and not design. The state of repair is not a valid consideration when deciding whether a building is listable.

“The fact is Dunelm House is still standing 50 years later. If it had fundamental design flaws that wouldn’t be the case.

“We think it’s a fantastic building and Historic England has recommended it should be listed more than once. We think this has been blocked for political reasons rather than anything to do with the building.”

The University claimed that to repair the building and redesign it in order to accommodate other uses would cost £14.7 million.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley made the decision not to list the building and said that she was inclined to approve an application for a certificate of immunity from listing that was sent by the University.

Plans to demolish the building are related to the University’s plan to redevelop its New Elvet buildings and build a new performance space and cultural facility.

A spokesperson from the University said: “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 as part of the comprehensive redevelopment of the university estate on New Elvet.

“This in turn will be a significant step in delivering the University Strategy and would transform the urban landscape in this part of the city.”

The University Strategy has also seen other recent developments, including the submission of accommodation plans for 850 students for the former Mount Oswald golf course.

Stuart Corbridge, Vice Chancellor, said in an email announcement last week: “2017 is set to be an exciting year as we start delivering the new University Strategy – the Strategy was approved by University Council in December 2016.

“The first area where you will notice changes is in relation to the development of our estate. Three priority projects, as identified in the Masterplan consultation in Autumn 2016, have been approved for early development.

“These are: new Colleges at Mount Oswald; a new teaching and learning facility at St Mary’s Field and a major expansion of the Maiden Castle Sports Park.  There will also be new buildings for Mathematics and Computing Sciences and some renovation work on the Bailey.”

Photograph: Creative Commons

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