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Concern over ‘damaging’ plans for former Mechanics Institute

Plans to redevelop Witham Hall in Barnard Castle in County Durham have been strongly criticised by the Victorian Society. The £6 million scheme includes altering the original 1854 building and knocking down the site's historic Music Hall.

The owners of Witham Hall want to provide a cinema, a performance space, a food hall, community facilities, shops and two cafés on the site.

Witham Hall is a rare and intact example of a nineteenth-century Mechanics Institute. The two rooms on the ground floor that would have housed the dispensary and library are still there, and the Music Hall which makes up part of the site is little altered. The main building is listed at Grade II, a designation that also covers the 1860 Music Hall.

'The proposed plans for Witham Hall are too damaging and leave no memory of the original layout and history of this important community building', said Alex Baldwin, Conservation Officer for the Victorian Society. 'Knocking down the Music Hall isn't justified and we believe it will cause harm to the exceptional significance of the listed building.'

The Society supports the regeneration of Witham Hall but strongly believes that a more sensitive approach is needed, one that keeps and adapts the existing Music Hall.

Monday 9 August, 2010

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