School plans delay

editorial image

A BUSINESSMAN says he is “depressed” over a delay in a decision on the future of a derelict school he wants to develop.

Tony Mann has been in a nine-year wrangle with English Heritage which put a block on any redevelopment of Easington Colliery Infant and Junior School.

Mr Mann, of Westnew Management, wants to develop the Grade II-listed building into affordable housing.

But campaigners including English Heritage and the North East Civic Trust oppose this due to the building’s special historic interest, after the site was subject to a planning inquiry in 2007.

Mr Mann said: “I’m really depressed about the school.

“All my efforts are going nowhere, it’s like King Canute telling the waves to go back.

“We have been largely held back by English Heritage and the North East Civic Trust.

“Nobody in Easington wants the school.”

Mr Mann, whose Wallsend-based property company also owns 100 houses in Easington Colliery’s A and B streets, said he had organised petitions for action at the school, going back nine years, to no avail.

He added: “All we have done is spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees and applied to get it delisted but we are just going nowhere.”

He said his agent, GVA Grimley, had met with Durham County Council which had agreed to give more time for GVA Grimley to consult with the North East Civic Trust over any other possibilities for the building, but admitted this was “dragging on”.

An English Heritage spokesman said: “English Heritage is working closely with Durham County Council, along with several other organisations including the North of England Civic Trust, to find an agreed solution for the Easington Colliery school buildings.

“Both buildings are Grade II-listed and are nationally significant; they tell us much about the history of Easington and innovation in educational provision at the time and should be recognised as such.

“Because the buildings are so important, every possible option for them is being considered so the best outcome is reached.

“We have not said the school buildings can’t be altered or put to other uses but any changes affecting their historic significance would need listed building consent which would be decided by Durham County Council.”

Peter Coe, Durham County Council strategic investments manager, said: “We have been working with all of the organisations involved in determining the future of Easington Colliery school, including Mr Mann and English Heritage, for some time now in order to find a viable option for its use.

“A report by the North of England Civic Trust into the remaining options is now complete and is due to be discussed by the council in the next few months.”