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Former Stan Laurel school has cost £600,000 since arson attack
MORE than £600,000 has been spent protecting a burnt out school once attended by Stan Laurel in the last five years.
Concerns have been raised that Durham County Council is not doing enough to sort out the future of the derelict King James I Grammar School, in South Church Road, Bishop Auckland.
The Grade-II listed building was extensively damaged in an arson attack in 2007. Since then it has been protected by plastic sheeting, scaffolding and a metal fence.
Durham County Council has spent £614,718 in the last five years on emergency stabilisation work, ongoing project work and security measures.
About £426,000 was recovered from the insurance company following the fire.
“To spend this money just to keep it in the way it is now is not value for money,” said Bishop Auckland county councillor Sam Zair.
“No-one wants to see our history demolished but we need to look at what can be achieved. “This is taxpayers money that could be used elsewhere.”
Weardale county councillor John Shuttleworth said: “It is the height of stupidity. The council is spending money on this building it just doesn’t have. We can’t even afford to fix the roads.
Dr Bob McManners, chairman of the Bishop Auckland Civic Society, said the group asked for access to the building before the fire with a view to maybe setting up a museum based on the mining heritage of the area but this was denied.
“The building has not been properly looked after,” he said. “It is an important piece of the town. Surely there must be grants that can be accessed. Usually where there is a will there is a way.
“It is in such an awful state I am concerned it could become beyond repair. It has not been properly protected from the elements.”
Sarah Robson, head of economic development with Durham County Council, said: “It’s important to note that the majority of this money was received via the insurance policy following the fire and has not been at cost to the tax payer.
“The council continues to look for partners willing to work with us to find a suitable future for the building.”
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