Uncertain future for derelict former Stan Laurel school building in Bishop Auckland 

Northern Echo website 101017A burnt-out school once attended by Stan Laurel is to go up for sale after a £2m plan to bring it back to life failed to secure the necessary funding.

image Northern Echo website

The Northern Echo writes:

The South Durham Enterprise Agency and Durham County Council joined forces two years ago in an effort to find a future for the former King James School building, in Bishop Auckland.  The Grade-II listed building was extensively damaged in an arson attack in 2007.  Since then, it has been protected by plastic sheeting, scaffolding and a metal fence, but there have been an increasing number of complaints that the site, in South Church Road, is an eyesore.

The plan was to seek lottery funding to restore the building and create new office space.  The Heritage Lottery Fund had introduced a Heritage Enterprise Grant for projects that save ‘at risk’ historic buildings and use them to improve economic growth, but unfortunately the bid was unsuccessful.

Durham County Council said having explored the options it would now be putting it up for sale and providing relevant information to interested parties to help them come up with viable proposals. Peter Coe, Durham County Council’s development manager, said:

‘Along with the board of trustees and South Durham Enterprise Agency, we have been working for some time to bring the former King James School building into economic use.  Sadly, our applications to get external funding to restore the building have not been successful. We will now market the building to see if anyone else can bring the building back into use.  We will provide prospective purchasers with relevant information, so that they can pull together their proposals.’

The South Durham Enterprise Agency, which is a non-profit organisation, was hoping the project would create and sustain jobs in the local community.  If the funding had been successful it would have managed the building and its operations once the building had been restored.

Rob Yorke, chairman of the South Durham Enterprise Agency and county councillor for West Auckland, said: ‘We are very disappointed that the application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was turned down.  We appreciate there are lots of buildings out there of great significance but it would have been great to renovate the building and bring it back to life.  I am not very hopeful about the future given the seriously bad condition it is in.  I think there needs to be a debate with residents about what the next step is for the building.’

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