A DILAPIDATED building steeped in mining history could be saved from demolition at the eleventh hour.
For more than three decades, the Memorial Hall in Esh Winning, County Durham, has stood vacant, falling into such a state of disrepair that it was deemed to be in need of demolition.
But a new owner has come forward with what some see as a “last hope” plan to save the structure and its history.
Developers Brett Brothers Developments are hoping to restore the exterior and interior of the hall to create 20 flats for the elderly while building a new entrance hall and car park.
The plans, which will be discussed by planners tomorrow, have received a cautious welcome from historic building enthusiasts.
Thompson Minnis, 72, who lives in the village, said: “What has happened to the memorial hall is a crying shame.
“I’m pleased to see it could be used again and to hear they will keep the original facade. It used to house so many things for the community but when the cinema closed that was it and it was left to go to rack and ruin.”
Built in 1923, the hall was once the heart of the mining community, providing families with a concert hall, swimming bath, community rooms and library.
But since the 1970s, it has been neglected and is now a run-down shadow of its former self after being targeted by vandals and suffering from a lack of maintenance.
Having seen the state of the hall, planners at Durham County Council said it had “long-since succumbed to the ravages of time, vandalism and decay, with little other than the reinforced concrete structural elements still in existence.”
Building officials had feared they would have to bulldoze the grand hall on the grounds of public safety.
But to their surprise, a new owner has stepped up with a pledge to renovate the building, creating accommodation for the elderly.
In a report on the application, due to be decided by councillors tomorrow, senior planning officer Steve France said: “The Memorial Hall, despite years of neglect, is an impressively grand representation of a mining community’s pride in its history and heritage.
“A recent change of ownership has brought the prospect of this building being retained, and given not only a viable future, but potentially an appropriate one also.”
Financed by the mining community, the Grade II-listed hall was built to commemorate the hundreds of miners killed during the First World War.
Over the years it has been used as community rooms and library, cinema, bingo hall, the Majestic ballroom and later a venue for discos in the 1960s.
A spokesman for the Ancient Monument Society said it accepted “the current application represents the best last hope for a fine building which has been virtually derelict for three decades,” but asked for caution when deciding which materials would be used in the renovation.
Durham County Council’s area planning committee will discuss the plans tomorrow in Easington.