PLANS have been submitted to turn parts of a former Prisoner of War camp into a cheese factory and housing.
Durham County Council has received two planning applications for the former camp at Harperley on the edge of Weardale.
The site’s owner James McLeod wants to turn four of the huts used to house Second World War prisoners into homes for him and his family.
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Meanwhile, Simon Raine is asking the council for permission to turn Harperley’s hut 16 into a cheese making factory.
The camp, which lies just off the A68 near Crook, was built in 1942 to house mainly Italians captured during the Second World War.
There were originally 57 prefabricated huts on the site which were used to house British officers, guards, workshops and accommodation for the prisoners.
Since the prison’s camp closure in 1946 the site, which has 47 huts remaining, has been used as a chicken farm, garden centre and most recently a tourist attraction although that closed several years ago.
In a statement to the planning authority, Mr McLeod’s architect said many of the huts are in a poor condition, although two, the theatre and prisoners' recreation hut, have been repaired and protected with cladding by English Heritage.
Architect John Niven from The old Hall Practice said: “As is to be expected, with temporary structures designed to last for only a few years, after 72 years all the surviving buildings are in poor physical condition with a number partially collapsed.”
Mr Niven said allowing Mr McLeod and his family to repair and live in some of the huts would mean they are better placed to maintain the site and control the “escalating decay”.
The camp, which is only one of four to have survived since the end of the war, hosted low risk Italian and German prisoners, many of whom were sent out to work on farms in the Weardale area on behalf of the County Durham War Agricultural Committee.
Mr Raine said allowing hut 16 to be used for cheese production would continue a tradition of food being made on the site.
He said: “The creation of a cheese-making facility in one of the huts, using local labour and locally sourced milk, will continue a thread of food production.”
English Heritage considers the camp to be of huge historical importance, in particular the theatre building, which still has its proscenium arch and stage, and a large German mural in the former canteen.
For more information on the plans, visit durham.gov.uk