By Ben Sladden
Durham Students’ Union set out its agenda regarding the future of Dunelm House on at its Assembly on October 24th, resolving to support the University’s plan to demolish the building.
Durham University applied for immunity from Dunelm House’s listed status, noting its state of disrepair would present excessive renovation costs. The University has estimated that repairs would cost £14.7 million.
Assembly noted its belief that Dunelm House is “unfit” for the SU, with its lack of lifts rendering it inaccessible for many students.
The lack of sufficient interior space “necessary for student groups to hold regular meetings, activities and events” was underlined.
Additionally, Assembly stated that the building’s state renders it dysfunctional for continued use, noting “a leaky roof, damp and mould.”
However, the Save Dunelm House campaign group has maintained restoration would be cheaper than a rebuild.
The Twentieth Century Society continues to campaign to have the controversial building listed on the grounds of its apparent architectural significance – a campaign that the University has opposed.
St John’s College student, Joe Mathieson, who campaigned to save the building, alleges that there was a “glaring lack of transparency” in the lead-up to Assembly’s vote on the future of the SU.
Mathieson alleges that a group of student campaigners were not given sufficient time to prepare their defence of the future of the building for Assembly.
“There was clearly an attempt by the SU to shut down debates of the cultural significance of Dunelm House,” Mathieson alleged.
Megan Croll, SU President, said: “It is, in all honesty, an inhospitable space for students year-round, but particularly in winter, when it is often too cold for students to sit still and study for any length of time.
“The resources, both in time and expense, which it costs both the Students’ Union and the University to mitigate for these issues are substantial, and I believe that many students would feel that those resources were better spent elsewhere.”
Dunelm House was opened in 1966, and is viewed as an example of brutalist architecture in the North East.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons. Tim Packer / TSP