A FORMER miners’ memorial hall has been reopened to provide flats for vulnerable people.

The building in Esh Winning, built as a memorial to miners who lost their lives in World War One, was saved from demolition in 2009.

Developer Michael Brett has since invested around £1m to restore the building, which cost around £9,500 to build in 1923.

It is now being used to provide housing for 24 adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties.

The hall had a colourful history, from being used as a cinema in the 1920s, a makeshift barracks during World War Two to a bingo and disco club in the 60s.

In the 70s the building fell into disrepair and, by the time Mr Brett bid for the hall in 2009, parts of the roof had fallen in, its beautiful facade was crumbling and it had become the target of vandalism.

County Councillor John Wilkinson said: "We’re absolutely delighted that Mick Brett had the courage to take on such an absolute derelict monstrosity and turn it into a beautiful home.

"We thought it was either very courageous or very stupid. Or both, knowing Mick".

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for Durham City, officially opened the renamed Eshwin Hall today (Friday, October 19) following an award-winning redevelopment which was honoured earlier this month at the County Durham Environment Awards.

In a speech to the residents, she said: "We had a plan to have the building moved almost brick by brick to Beamish.

"It is much, much better to see this building being used in the way it currently is today, giving such a fantastic home to people instead of just being carted off to Beamish".

She added: "I think it is brilliant that the developer, Mike Brett, was able to preserve the beautiful exterior of the building whilst also providing much needed housing for vulnerable people. We need more of this visionary planning to balance meeting need with top quality, appropriate design.

The development is of a really high standard and I felt very lucky to be with the new residents as they saw their new flats.

The building is leased from Bett Bros Developments by Auckland Home Solutions and overlooks Esh Winning Cricket Club.

Gillard Nicola, director of Auckland Home Solutions, said: "All the cricket fans have taken the top floor flats because they get the best view".