Five-year-old public artwork facing demolition

The Northern Echo: Opening the arch, in 2007 Opening the arch, in 2007

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.

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.

Comments (4)

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11:13am Mon 26 Nov 12

Nicholas_Till says...

It's a horrible thing, and probably an obstruction to people trying to make normal use of the place.

What with that and the dispiriting blocks round the edges of the market nearby, I feel the people of Chester-le-Street have been fobbed off with some real dreck.
It's a horrible thing, and probably an obstruction to people trying to make normal use of the place. What with that and the dispiriting blocks round the edges of the market nearby, I feel the people of Chester-le-Street have been fobbed off with some real dreck. Nicholas_Till
  • Score: -1

12:54pm Mon 26 Nov 12

Edmondsley says...

Call in Durham Vision to get rid of it.
Call in Durham Vision to get rid of it. Edmondsley
  • Score: -1

12:55pm Mon 26 Nov 12

Birdyy says...

You win some and lose some. Write it off but don't be put-off investing in the arts.

If we don't invest in art, music, sport then what is the point?
You win some and lose some. Write it off but don't be put-off investing in the arts. If we don't invest in art, music, sport then what is the point? Birdyy
  • Score: 1

10:02pm Mon 26 Nov 12

Jolly Roger says...

Oh come on get rid of it - we are losing hours from our libraries opening times because of cuts, so demolished this thing as I don't agree with wasting any more of our money deciding what to do with it.

So come on Simon if you are cutting jobs etc do away with this also.
Oh come on get rid of it - we are losing hours from our libraries opening times because of cuts, so demolished this thing as I don't agree with wasting any more of our money deciding what to do with it. So come on Simon if you are cutting jobs etc do away with this also. Jolly Roger
  • Score: 0

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