A FORMER university headquarters is set to be converted into a luxury hotel.

Old Shire Hall, on Old Elvet, Durham City, has stood empty since Durham University moved its administrative staff to the new Palatine Centre this summer.

However, Gary Davis, chief executive of upmarket hotel chain Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, said the group was just months away from signing a deal to buy the landmark Victorian building.

The Grade II-listed structure, also a former Durham County Council HQ, would become a hotel with nearly 50 bedrooms, creating up to 60 jobs.

Mr Davis said: “If we can strike a deal to turn the building into a Hotel du Vin, we should get everything signed away in the next three months.

“Hotel du Vin does very well in the likes of Cambridge, so we view Durham as a great market for us.

“The building will be transformed into just under 50 bedrooms and that will in turn create between 50 and 60 jobs. This is not only an exciting time for us, but also for Durham.”

The University sold Old Shire Hall to the now-defunct One North East in 2008 for £4.2m.

When the regional development agency was wound up, ownership passed to the Homes and Communities Agency, which put it up for sale in May.

Malmaison has been linked with the property for more than two years.