DEMOLITION work is to begin on a town’s former civic heart once Sunday’s Remembrance Day parade has concluded.
The work to bulldoze Consett Civic Centre – built in 1969 and closed in August this year – is expected to be completed by January and is the start of a controversial scheme hailed by one supporter as “the best thing for the town since the start of the last century” but as “another nail in the town’s coffin” by opponents.
In its place will be built an academy to house the students of two of the town’s schools, next to a new sports centre at a total cost of £43m.
The town’s War Memorial, next to the Civic Centre, is to remain in situ.
Locals had protested against plans to build the development on the site of the Civic Centre at Belle Vue, claiming it would lead to the loss of valuable green space and extra traffic in a residential area.
Part of the scheme also involves the relocation of Consett football club to a new stadium at Crookhall on the outskirts of the town.
Yesterday local county councillor Owen Temple, a critic of the decision to build at Belle Vue, said: “The demolition proper of the Civic Centre is due to begin following the Remembrance Sunday parade and be completed in January next year. The War Memorial is intended to remain on the site.
“The new football stadium, which will include a 3G artificial pitch and community changing rooms for football teams playing on the other pitches, is intended to be complete in June/July 2012 in time for the 2012/3 season.”
Coun Temple said he had been informed that the new academy site to house pupils from schools in Blackfyne and Moorside, together with a new sports centre, was scheduled to be complete by mid-2014.
The merger of the two schools is due to take place in January with the academy on a split site until the new building is completed. Coun Temple said: “Consett Academy starts with a legacy of distrust because of both central and local government’s obsession with driving it through regardless of local opinion as to organisation and site, but it remains central to the future life chances and prosperity of our young people. We can’t afford it to be anything other than successful. We can all play our part by working with the Academy to ensure its success.”
Council cabinet member Bob Young described the new development as the “best thing for the town since coal and steel.” But former Derwentside District Council leader Alex Watson said the new unitary Durham County Council was “ignoring Consett and removing its civic pride” by demolishing the civic centre, a move he described as “another nail in Consett’s coffin.”