Councillors will be asked to back ambitious plans to restore one of County Durham’s most prestigious buildings next week.
The Durham Miners Association (DMA) hopes to transform Redhills into a vibrant community and arts hub, preserving its rich heritage as a pitman’s parliament and securing the building’s future by encouraging more groups to make use of the facilities.
It will see historical features restored and the creation of a new extension housing facilities for conferences and events, along with space for community groups to meet, practice and perform.
DMA has submitted a £4 million bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards the £6.7 million project, but to be successful it must secure match funding.
On Wednesday 10 July, Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to support a contribution of £1,103, 615 towards the project. This would boost the fundraising efforts of DMA, which has already secured £1 million of match funding and raised £50,000 of the remaining £600,000 needed.
Built in 1915, Durham Miners Hall, known as Redhills, houses the pitman’s parliament, where almost 200 colliery delegates took important decisions that transformed the county. From building aged miners’ homes and welfare halls, to setting up community hospitals and libraries – no other county had such an advanced social system before the welfare state was created.
Now a Grade II listed building, Redhills was selected by Historic England as one of 100 places that bring to life the country’s “rich and extraordinary history.” The only other parliament included in the list was Westminster, reiterating just how valuable Redhills is.
However, without this project, Redhills’ future would be uncertain, and it could result in its closure and the dispersion of valuable documents and artefacts.
A recent appraisal indicated the building would be rendered unusable unless a full roof repair is carried out within the next five to ten years.
If Cabinet agrees to financially support the scheme, it would build upon the council’s long-term commitment to investing in culture and heritage. DMA is also working in partnership with the council on plans for the new Durham History Centre to share the social, industrial and political background of the coalfield.
“County Durham has a proud mining heritage,” said Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, tourism and culture.
“It has shaped our landscape and is very much part of our cultural identity. Redhills is such an important building, not only to County Durham, but to the whole of the UK.
“Its closure would be a significant loss to the local community and County Durham’s heritage offer, which is vital for tourism and the economic benefits this brings.”
Councillors are recommended to approve the financial contribution, subject to the success of the National Lottery Heritage Fund bid, when they meet at the Council Offices in Spennymoor at 10am on Wednesday 10 July.
Durham County Council is consulting on designs for the history centre, which will provide a new home for the county archives, Durham Light Infantry objects, archaeological services, local studies reference material and the registration service at Mount Oswald Manor.
The consultation runs until Sunday, 28 July. Feedback can be provided online by visiting www.durham.gov.uk/consultation