A HISTORIC water mill symbolising a city's industrial heritage could be demolished if an eco-office scheme providing 800 jobs is approved.
Also for the bulldozers would be Durham’s former ice rink opened in 1940 and used by members of the Canadian Air Force, some of whom settled in the city after the second world war forming the Durham Wasps’ Ice Hockey team.
Earmarked for land along the River Wear, the 3.2-acre scheme includes an Archimedes’ Screw mill harnessing the river’s energy.
Bulldozing the city’s former 1940s ice rink, developers could create a multi-floor office with restaurant as the new home to the Government’s National Savings and Investments department based in the city’s Milburngate.
Other changes on the site, described as a neglected and underused part of the city, will include a second office development, information kiosk and energy centre housing the mill.
Despite it originating from the 1100s the Bishop’s Mill, used by the tenants of Prince Bishops to grind their corn, is not Grade Listed but is deemed to be a Heritage Asset by English Heritage. Supporting the application, due to go before Durham’s county planning committee on March 5, English Heritage said in the report it was “of the opinion that the public benefit provided through the provision of the hydro plant would outweigh the harm caused by the demolition of Bishop’s Mill.”
Once operational, developers say the new mill, off Freeman’s Reach, would provide 76% of the development’s energy.
While English Heritage supports the plan it has faced opposition from representatives of the Durham City Angling Club there would be a loss of fish in the Wear outweighing the energy needs.
It’s not the first time the site has courted controversy among the community.
In 2005 the then Durham City Council approved planning permission to demolish the old ice rink and mill making way for 93 apartments, an underground car park, a local heritage facility and six workspaces.
The decision was ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State and after a public inquiry was refused in June 2006 on the grounds it was out of keeping with the character of the site in the setting of Durham Castle and Cathedral.
While it’s recognised as a step in the right direction, the City of Durham Trust doesn’t consider this current application to be the “finished article”.