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Plans for restoration of former durham miners’ hall get green light

Plans for the multi-million-pound refurbishment and extension of Durham Miners Hall have been approved.

Durham County Council has backed the proposals to secure the future of the hall. Known as Redhills, the hall opened in 1915 as the purpose-built headquarters of the Durham Miners Association (DMA).

The Grade II-listed hall in the Durham City Conservation Area will be transformed into a vibrant centre of culture, heritage and education for the Durham coalfield area and beyond.

The project will meet a series of conditions to ensure the invaluable heritage of the hall is protected and that the development is sympathetic to the local environment.

Work is due to start on site in early 2022 and follows a £4.5 million grant secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund earlier this year. The overall cost of the project will be £7.25 million, with Durham County Council also providing £1.1m along with funding from trade unions and community supporters.

Restoration plans are integral to the long-term sustainability of the building. Redhills will be fully restored and the addition of new buildings with modern facilities will enable Redhills to improve accessibility and offer a wide-ranging programme of activities and community resources. The renewed Redhills will use cutting-edge audio-visual technology to bring to life the rich history of the DMA, the people and the communities of the Durham coalfield.

Robert Dibden, associate director at the Newcastle office of Lichfields, who secured planning permission and listed building consent on behalf of DMA, said the project will provide welcome community facilities, and help to safeguard Durham’s important industrial legacy.

He said: “We have worked closely with the Durham Miners’ Association and Durham County Council, together with their professional teams, to deliver this project. As planners, we want to see the creation of exciting and rewarding projects that will leave a long-lasting legacy.

“Restoration work will undoubtedly play a role in unlocking a new chapter for this important building and securing its place as an interesting, viable and attractive heritage hub, which will be enjoyed by millions of visitors from across the world for years to come.”

At the heart of Redhills is The Pitman’s Parliament, the seat of the DMA democracy that shaped the lives of the people of County Durham for generations. Elected delegates from across the county met at Redhills and created a pioneering social system, providing medical care, libraries, welfare halls, retirement homes and sports grounds before the introduction of the welfare state.

Redhills has been recognised by Historic England as among the 100 ‘irreplaceable’ places in the history of the country, alongside the Palace of Westminster.

Ross Forbes, programme director at Redhills added: “We are delighted to have obtained planning permission and listed building consent for the refurbishment and renewal of Redhills. It is so much more than just a building, and Lichfields understood this. They were able to convey the story of Redhills and the values of the DMA through the planning process.”

The DMA recently handed over ownership of Redhills to the people. A new charity, Redhills CIO, now serves as the stewards of the Miners Hall on behalf of the communities of County Durham.

Founded in 1962, Lichfields offers a broad range of planning and development consultancy services including development management, consultation, economics, EIA, heritage, neighbourly matters and urban design. Its clients include developers, landowners and operators in the housing, retail, leisure, commercial, waste and recycling and infrastructure sectors; as well as local authorities and government bodies.