THE owner of a music venue in Durham said he is "devastated" after permission was granted for a redevelopment project which could see the loss of one of the city's cultural asset.

Planning permission for a development on Frankland Lane, in the city was granted on Tuesday evening, meaning the existing units located in Blagdon Depot will be demolished and replaced with new structures.

Rocking Horse rehearsal rooms and recording studio, housed in the depot, will have to close after the owner’s year-long battle to halt the redevelopment. Located in a converted rocking horse factory, the studio has become home to hundreds of musicians since it opened its doors.

Owner Rich Combstock estimates that more than 300 artists have recorded music in the studio in the last decade, with 40 bands a week using the facility to rehearse. Rich says he has invested more than £50,000 in the building since his lease began in 2011 - value which will likely be lost during its demolition. 

The Northern Echo: The building Rocking Horse is housed in will be demolished during redevelopment.The building Rocking Horse is housed in will be demolished during redevelopment. (Image: Rich Combstock)

Read more: Rocking Horse studio, Durham, faces closure due to development

MP Mary Kelly Foy declared her support for Rocking Horse, saying:  "Make no mistake, Rocking Hose is a vital part of the live music scene, with almost no other facilities like this in the county. Allowing Rocking Horse’s closure is tantamount to bulldozing the legacy of the City of Culture bid.”

She added that Rocking Horse is the only venue of its like in Durham City and is one of very few in the wider region - meaning if the business does have to close, the county could become culturally "poorer and blander".

In the planning meeting, no allowances were made for Rocking Horse's relocation, meaning they have no time frame for when their building will be demolished.

So far, Rich has been unable to find suitable alternate premises for his business, because of the niche needs of the studio, and Durham's expensive business rental market.

The Northern Echo: Support has poured in for Rocking Horse since redevelopment plans were announced. Support has poured in for Rocking Horse since redevelopment plans were announced. (Image: Rich Combstock)

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He said: "The hunt for new premises is ongoing, but it is proving to be as difficult as ever. It is no secret that our business was viable because the rent was so low. Studios like Rocking Horse don't pull in huge profits, so high rents would make the business unfeasible."

Still, there is a glimmer of hope for Rocking Horse - due to a huge outpouring of support for the studio since it came under threat, which has included thousands of people signing a petition and banners being hung across the city. Rich has asked the studio's supporters to keep fighting. 

He said: "Keep fighting in our corner and keep talking about us - we just need our story to reach the ear of the right person. We're not closed yet, either, so keep coming down."

Though the future of Rocking Horse remains clouded, Rich is considering all possible options - including crowdfunding or releasing a record to help raise the necessary money for relocation. 

Speaking of the planning decision, Stephen Reed, Durham County Council’s planning development manager, said: "Careful consideration is given to all planning applications to prevent the loss of valued facilities unless they are no longer viable.

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"As the current buildings are unable to meet new government legislation around energy efficiency, which comes into effect in April, the owner would be unable to grant, extend or renew existing tenancies from next year. Without redevelopment, the site would therefore become vacant.

"We understand the owner has offered the Rocking Horse studio space within the new development. Given the importance of cultural activities to the county and our communities, we would also be happy to continue to support the studio in finding an alternative venue."

The Northern Echo approached Rocking Horse's landlords, but they declined to comment.