AN ambitious new redevelopment scheme could see the demolition of a 1960s "eyesore" in Durham.
Millburngate House, on the banks of the River Wear in the city, is likely to be pulled down if council chiefs go ahead with plans to transform the riverside.
The block was built with no need for planning permission to house the National Savings and Investments (NS&I) and Passport Office.
Both employers, who have more than 400 staff at the site have stressed there would be no job losses as a result of moving out of the building.
Plans, which are still under discussion, could see the NS & I move across the river to Freeman’s Reach, which Durham County Council plans to redevelop as a mixture of office and residential space. A Home Office spokeswoman stressed the Passport Office remained “committed to Durham” and added that no job losses were planned “at this stage”.
It is understood the planned demolition of Millburngate House would take place by 2014.
The proposal has been seen as a welcome move by families who believe the building is out of keeping with the grandeur of the Unesco World Heritage site, around the city’s castle and cathedral.
Cabinet member for regeneration at Durham County Council, Neil Foster, said: “There is now an opportunity to take this very significant site to the market to see how it can best be redeveloped and have a positive impact on Durham city centre’s regeneration.
“Sitting alongside Freeman’s Reach, this offers another important and prominent site for development.”
In the late 1980s architectural historian Alec Clifton Taylor reflected many people’s views, describing Millburngate House as “an assertive lump of hideous concrete that could only have been put up by a Government department exempt, as it should certainly not be, from obtaining planning permission; and it is a disgrace”.
Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said Millburngate House was “probably nearing the end of its useful working life”.
She added: “It would probably prove too costly to redevelop so demolition is the most likely solution.
“But I have written to the county council urging them to look at its future as part of a broader picture incorporating the redevelopment of North Road from the bus station downwards, and including the Gates shopping centre and the site of the old ice rink.
“If planners look at each site individually the eventual outcome is likely to be less satisfactory than looking at them together as part of a broader picture for the regeneration of the city centre.”
Karen Ward of NS&I said Millburngate House was much larger than was needed for current and future operations in Durham and was nearing the end of its useful economic life.
“The scale of repair and refurbishment to make the building viable for longer term use is not cost effective for us,” she said.