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Plans approved to convert Bishop Auckland Masonic Hall into flats

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The renovation of a historic County Durham town centre building has been approved.

 

Developers are set to breathe new life into Bishop Auckland’s Masonic Hall by converting it into an artist’s workshop/ studio and apartments.

 

The building, located on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Kingsway, was historically used as a Masonic Hall but has more recently been used as a function space for private events.

 

However, the state of the building has declined in recent years and is now in poor condition, with several broken and boarded up windows.

 

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Grant funding for the redevelopment is being provided by Historic England and Durham County Council, a Durham County Council planning meeting heard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graham Thomas, the applicant, said the repairs are the property’s last chance of survival due to its poor repair and current grant funding that is available.

 

He said: “While Bishop Auckland is on the rise, the cost of house sales in comparison to the large refurbishment works for historic buildings like this, are not reflected.

 

An additional hole in the roof has appeared after the Christmas break, if the building does not have a new purpose fit for modern times, it will be lost.

 

“The impact of residential and a commercial on the ground floor will be minimal compared to its current use class.

 

Having more residents living in the town centre will also help to enable more footfall into the centre itself.”

 

Local business owner and county councillor Sam Zair said the building has attracted adverse comments from the public on social media over the years due to its dilapidated state.

 

Police discovered a large-scale cannabis farm inside after a raid in 2021.

 

In approving the proposal, Cllr Zair added: “It’s nice to see one of our great buildings being brought back into use again. It’s a no brainer.”

 

His comments were echoed by Cllrs Michael Stead and Joe Quinn, who said: “ The building is in a very sorry state and will be hugely beneficial to the town.”

 

History of Bishop Auckland Masonic Hall

The building started life in 1877 as a Temperance Hall. It cost £3,000 to build, was designed by James Garry of West Hartlepool.

 

“The building is a great ornament to the town, and in honour of the opening, most of the principal tradesmen in the town closed their shops and thus had themselves,

and gave their assistants, an opportunity of taking part,” said a local newspaper at the time.

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