A HUGE public artwork which cost more than £300,000 just five years ago is facing demolition, it has emerged.
The landmark Civic Heart Arch was installed in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, in May 2007 at a cost of £334,000, as part of a £2.5m refurbishment of the town centre.
However, after a survey found serious structural problems, it has been fenced off – and is costing £300 a month to keep safe.
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Now Durham County Council bosses want to know whether people want it completely repaired, partially repaired or demolished and paved over.
Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Wilkes dubbed the Arch “Henig’s folly” after Simon Henig, now Labour leader of Durham County Council and previously deputy leader of the now-defunct Chester-le-Street District Council, which commissioned the piece.
He also branded it a waste of taxpayers’ money and said the council should seek compensation from its designers and builders.
The Arch was designed by artist Jo Fairfax as an events space and tribute to Chester-le-Street’s Roman heritage.
Councillor Henig said taxpayers’ money was not spent on building the Arch and it was commissioned before he became deputy leader, but added: “I’m as disappointed as anybody that it hasn’t survived the severe winters we’ve had.
“The art was never popular in Chester-le-Street. Residents that I’ve talked to seem to be in favour of removing it. But it’s important we have a consultation and everybody makes their views known.”
A structural examination of the Arch last year revealed hexagonal briquettes covering the surface of the piece had moved due to weather exposure and some are no longer properly supported.
A full repair and overhaul, involving stripping the piece back to its steel structure, would cost £282,000, with ongoing maintenance costs of £5,000 per year.
A partial repair, which would see the briquettes replaced with a concrete coating embossed with a pattern, would cost £184,305, also with £5,000-a-year maintenance.
Demolishing the structure and reinstating pavement would cost £47,919.
Consultation on its future begins today (November 26) online at durham.gov.uk/consultation and runs until January 7. A consultation event will be held at the town’s market on Friday, December 7.