Chester-le-Street arch to be demolished after structural problems

Doomed: Civic Heart Arch in Chester-le-Street

Doomed: Civic Heart Arch in Chester-le-Street

First published in News Durham Times: Static HTML image by

A CRUMBLING work of art is to be demolished just six years after it was built at a cost of more than £300,000.

The Civic Heart Arch, in Chester-le-Street, has been fenced off for the last six months after hexagonal briquettes covering the surface began to come loose due to weathering.

Engineers said the cost of fully repairing the controversial structure, built in 2007 as part of a £2.5m redevelopment of the town’s Market Place, would top £280,000, with a further £5,000-a-year bill for maintenance.

A public consultation exercise carried out by Durham County Council found a massive 94 per cent of people in favour of demolishing the arch - leaving the authority to find almost £48,000 to knock it down and reinstate the site.

Kevan Jones MP, whose North Durham constituency includes Chester-le-Street, said: "I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are concerned about the huge costs, quoted in the consultation, for repairing and maintaining the arch, and I have written to Durham County Council on this matter.

"I firmly believe the only sensible option is to remove the arch, which has always been a monstrosity and which, in its current state of disrepair, is a real eyesore in the centre of town".

The arch cost £334,000 when it was built by the now defunct Chester-le-Street District Council. Created by artist Jo Fairfax, it was designed to represent the town’s Roman heritage.

But structural problems brought on by the winter weather left hexagonal briquettes coating the surface loose and the area has since been fenced off, with security around the site costing £300-a-month.

The arch was designed by artist Jo Fairfax, who said:  "It is extremely upsetting. As you can imagine, a lot of work went into it.

"It was nominated for several architecture awards and appears in books on European architecture and it seems a huge shame that it ends like this."

Mr Fairfax, who is known for his public artworks, said a lack of maintenance was to blame for water getting into the structure, which has caused damage particularly over recent harsh winters.

He said the design brief was to create something unusual, and it could have lasted for decades if properly maintained.

Coun Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: "The feedback we have received from the consultation gives the clear message that residents and businesses in Chester-le-Street believe the best option for future of the town centre is the demolition of the arch.

"In line with our promise to the public, now that we know their wishes we will waste no time in taking action to remove the arch and make good the Market Place."

The council said that, weather permitting and subject to approval, demolition would begin at the end of February or beginning of March.

More than 900 people took part in the six-week consultation exercise, which ended on Monday.

Comments (9)

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3:58pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Ally F says...

Cripes: £1/3M blown building an oversize cupboard door handle that falls apart after 5 years, I think the Romans knew a trick or two more about building than Jo Fairfax. If ever a project exemplified the spend now think later mentality of the last decade?...

I'm all for the arts, but what folly. Didn't the local authority get a bank guarantee or some other indemnity in place to pull if it all went Pete Tong? That's standard in Construction and Engineering. Jo Fairfax is still in business, how much has he offered to stump up to fix and maintain it?

Now something like the Millennium Bridge - iconic, innovative, beautiful. And the clever bit - useful, you can cross over on it. Probably also has a 20 or 30 year structural guarantee as well.
Cripes: £1/3M blown building an oversize cupboard door handle that falls apart after 5 years, I think the Romans knew a trick or two more about building than Jo Fairfax. If ever a project exemplified the spend now think later mentality of the last decade?... I'm all for the arts, but what folly. Didn't the local authority get a bank guarantee or some other indemnity in place to pull if it all went Pete Tong? That's standard in Construction and Engineering. Jo Fairfax is still in business, how much has he offered to stump up to fix and maintain it? Now something like the Millennium Bridge - iconic, innovative, beautiful. And the clever bit - useful, you can cross over on it. Probably also has a 20 or 30 year structural guarantee as well. Ally F
  • Score: 0

5:19pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Consett87 says...

Absolute Disgrace
Absolute Disgrace Consett87
  • Score: 0

6:56pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Spy Boy says...

Wherever do people get these stupidy inflated prices from ? To me, the building work is shoddy and therefore the builder should either replace it, or repair it correctly. Surely houses, or even a domestic shed have a better guarantee. Just because this is a "Work of Art" the same rules should apply. Reality check needed.

This is really a white elephant.
Wherever do people get these stupidy inflated prices from ? To me, the building work is shoddy and therefore the builder should either replace it, or repair it correctly. Surely houses, or even a domestic shed have a better guarantee. Just because this is a "Work of Art" the same rules should apply. Reality check needed. This is really a white elephant. Spy Boy
  • Score: 0

8:12am Thu 10 Jan 13

collieg1 says...

What a shame to allow a work of art to "die" in this manner. When I first heard news of the Arch's demolition my reaction was that surely Durham County Council had accepted an implict resposibility to care for, and maintain, the arch at the time when they agree to commision the artwork. If the unforseen deterioration was due to unusually harsh weather conditions shouldn't this be coered by insurance? If due to suboptimal building work then, as suggested by Spy Boy ,the buildersand or Civil Engineers are surely responsible, and should therfore contribute largely to the repair costs. My heart goes out to Jo Fairfax.
What a shame to allow a work of art to "die" in this manner. When I first heard news of the Arch's demolition my reaction was that surely Durham County Council had accepted an implict resposibility to care for, and maintain, the arch at the time when they agree to commision the artwork. If the unforseen deterioration was due to unusually harsh weather conditions shouldn't this be coered by insurance? If due to suboptimal building work then, as suggested by Spy Boy ,the buildersand or Civil Engineers are surely responsible, and should therfore contribute largely to the repair costs. My heart goes out to Jo Fairfax. collieg1
  • Score: 0

12:28pm Thu 10 Jan 13

Birdyy says...

Falling to bits seems a bit soon for a new building/ structure. It is reasonable to expect some on-going maintenance.

Shame
Falling to bits seems a bit soon for a new building/ structure. It is reasonable to expect some on-going maintenance. Shame Birdyy
  • Score: 0

2:41pm Thu 10 Jan 13

ajports says...

This looks amazing and I would love it in my town. This was not a build quality issue. A car crashed into it and that started the damage. If the council had fixed it in a timely fashion, water would not have got into it and caused this thing to start falling apart on its own.
This looks amazing and I would love it in my town. This was not a build quality issue. A car crashed into it and that started the damage. If the council had fixed it in a timely fashion, water would not have got into it and caused this thing to start falling apart on its own. ajports
  • Score: 0

10:07pm Thu 10 Jan 13

vercingetorix says...

Barnum was right
Barnum was right vercingetorix
  • Score: 0

10:07pm Thu 10 Jan 13

vercingetorix says...

Barnum was right
Barnum was right vercingetorix
  • Score: 0

2:29pm Sat 12 Jan 13

Philippa Edwards says...

The concern is that the building was damaged first by a vehicle, and then because it wasn't maintained it got damaged by weather.

The crime is that the Council allowed it to fall into disrepair after spending so much public money on it on it.

The scandal is the original builders have offered to fix it for the cost of materials - but this wasn't in the consultation.

Read more: http://www.philippae
dwards.co.uk/1/post/
2013/01/councillors-
want-to-tear-the-hea
rt-out-of-their-comm
unity.html#
The concern is that the building was damaged first by a vehicle, and then because it wasn't maintained it got damaged by weather. The crime is that the Council allowed it to fall into disrepair after spending so much public money on it on it. The scandal is the original builders have offered to fix it for the cost of materials - but this wasn't in the consultation. Read more: http://www.philippae dwards.co.uk/1/post/ 2013/01/councillors- want-to-tear-the-hea rt-out-of-their-comm unity.html# Philippa Edwards
  • Score: 0

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