Proposals to revive the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum and Art Gallery as a "truly stunning" attraction have been given the go-ahead by council leaders.

The former museum at Aykley Heads, Durham, which was closed in 2016, is set to be redeveloped and reopened as an exhibition centre, gallery and hospitality venue.

Leaders told a cabinet meeting it would be "restored to its former glory" with double the floorspace.

A study looked at options for bringing the museum back, from a modest clean-up of the existing building to a full demolition and rebuild.

It was decided to transform the existing building with a large extension, exhibition space, cafe and "contemplative garden".

It will include a dedicated display for items from the DLI Collection and Archive, one of the UK's most extensive regimental collections containing more than 15,000 objects covering the regiment's history since the 1750s.

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Amy Harhoff, Durham County Council's director of regeneration, economy and partnerships, said this would complement the collection's permanent home at the forthcoming Durham History Centre.

She said revamp would support the county's City of Culture 2025 bid with a "high quality art gallery, exhibition and creative space" with a modern cafe and restaurant.

She said the new centre would celebrate the building's heritage and house national and international arts events, attracting more visitors and investors.

"Most facilities will be accessible free of use for our residents and our visitors," she told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (March 16).

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Councillor Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said the proposals would boost tourism and tackle a "significant gap in our current cultural offer", delivering a "truly excellent cultural and visual art venue".

She said: "Dedicated space for artefacts from the collection will ensure that more of the collection can be seen than ever before, and will provide a rich addition to the county, and ensure that we honour those who have served."

Cllr Richard Bell, deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance, said the redevelopment would deliver world-class visual art and display the county's proud history.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Richard Bell. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Richard Bell. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

He told the cabinet meeting: "Speaking personally, as one of many people whose forebears served in the Durham Light Infantry, I am delighted that we will be able to display more of their proud heritage.

"And also that we will be able to fill the obvious gap that Durham city does not have an art or display gallery as we wait to see how we have fared with our County of Culture bid.

"We will be seeing funding to assist with this rebuild."

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Cllr Mark Wilkes said: "Today people are fighting for democracy in their darkest hour, and it reminds us of the sacrifices our armed forces make and have made.

"How we remember our past determines how we protect our future.

"This is why we are approving the work today which will see the DLI Museum fully renovated with double the accessible floor space, a new environmentally friendly DLI building capable of showing world-class art and dedicated Durham Light Infantry exhibitions in a truly stunning environment that we can all be proud of.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Mark Wilkes. Picture: Durham County CouncilCllr Mark Wilkes. Picture: Durham County Council

"This will return it to its former glory for generations to come with the full support of residents across County Durham."

Cllr Paul Sexton said: "In my role as armed forces champion I'm whole-heartedly behind this initiative.

"The joint administration, having listened to our residents, are breathing new life into the DLI and art gallery, where we can all pay our respects, learn more about our fabulous culture whilst enjoying fabulous displays and amazing grounds.

"A true tribute to their memory."


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