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Hotel or homes?
9:07am Monday 7th May 2012 in Leader
AS buildings go in Durham, there are not many that are more prominent than Old Shire Hall.
Its position in Old Elvet, slightly back from the main street frontage, set it apart from its immediate surroundings.
It may not be in the finest tradition of Victorian architecture, but it is still valuable and the people of Durham have a fondness for it, as do many students and staff of the university, its current occupiers.
When the university moves out in the summer to the new headquarters taking shape on Stockton Road, it is to be hoped that a suitable buyer and an appropriate use can be found.
It has long been rumoured that the boutique hotel chain Hotel du Vin was interested.
Anyone who has seen the way this company has converted similar old buildings – the former eye hospital in Birmingham and a former city asylum in Edinburgh are two good examples – into hotels that provide top-flight accommodation while respecting the architecture of the host buildings can understand why Old Shire Hall might be attractive.
But these are difficult times for the hotel industry and there seems little appetite for creating more bed spaces, even in a tourism hotspot like Durham.
The most likely outcome would be conversion to homes, but it will take the right developer, with an appropriate plan, to bring Old Shire Hall back to life.