A COUNCILLOR has spoken of his “depressing visit” to an empty regimental museum, where he found the boilers were “completely shot” and a leaking roof in need of replacing.

Durham County Council cabinet member Mark Wilkes was speaking after a tour of the former Durham Light Infantry Museum and Art Gallery, at Aykley Heads, which was controversially closed without consultation in 2015.

His visit came as council officers prepare a report for the new cabinet – made up of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and independents – which agreed to look again at the options for DLI collection, archive, museum building and grounds.

The Northern Echo: Inside the empty DLI Museum Inside the empty DLI Museum

Cllr Wilkes said: “I finally got chance to see inside the DLI Museum, after several visits to the grounds area.

"It felt rather depressing, quite honestly, seeing what it is like inside. On first entering the building you think that it could be reopened relatively easily.

“But then you find out that the roof needs replacing because of leaks, the boilers are completely shot and the drainage system also needs significant work.”

“It was actually quite an emotional visit for me – the museum is empty, but then there are still some pictures remaining on on display.

“I was thinking about just how strongly people felt about the closure and more importantly it was a reminder of just how much we owe to members of the Durham Light Infantry and those who came before and after.

The Northern Echo: Inside the empty DLI Museum Inside the empty DLI Museum

“It is still a beautiful building and when you look inside it and see the grounds you think there is so much potential there to bring it back to use."

Cllr Wilkes, portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and climate change, added: “Whatever happens to the building, if we bring it back into use we will need to make sure it a carbon neutral building and there are options out there for grants towards the cost of these things.”

The decision in 2015 included the storage of items at Sevenhills, in Spennymoor, and the loan of items to a number of venues including Palace Green Library.

The previous administration's plan was to move the collection to a new £19.6m history centre at Mount Oswald Manor House in the city, which is under construction. However, campaigners fear that would amount to “putting it into storage”.

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Cllr Wilkes said: “I am quite open to see the what the report says. It would be wrong at this stage to predetermine not only the report but the consultation that is fed into it.

“I think it is really important to hear the views of the DLI Association trustees, the Faithful Durhams and general public

“It is about working out to bring something forward that will be sustainable into the future."

Cllr Elizabeth Scott added: “We are consulting with stakeholders to find a sustainable solution that meets the needs of the collection, the building and the people who care about the DLI. A meeting is going to take place where stakeholders will be able to air their views. This will be available to watch live on YouTube for those who can’t attend in person.”

A special corporate overview and scrutiny committee meeting will be held at County Hall at 1.30pm on Wednesday July 28.

The Northern Echo: The closed DLI MuseumThe closed DLI Museum

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