Policy C1

Policy C1: Community Arts Facilities

Development proposals to create community arts facilities will be supported either on an appropriate site or through the conversion of an existing building. Any site should be well related to public transport, walking and cycling routes and should be accessible.

4.230 The Forum is in the first stage of identifying sites or buildings that have potential for accommodating community arts facilities. This policy could include a single large building or a range of smaller facilities. Land and buildings are in short supply in the City Centre. Discussions have taken place as to whether a new build should be proposed or whether we use an empty existing building or buildings. The Forum believes a more sustainable option would be to renovate an existing empty building. Our preferred option therefore is the former DLI Museum and Art Gallery. Other possible options include the old Miners’ Hall in North Road.

4.231 The Forum is aware of the great sadness in the community when the DLI Museum closed and the DLI collection was moved to storage in Spennymoor, as well as having some exhibition space in Palace Green Library. The building was a valuable resource for the community and used by the young and older people, but the County Council has made it clear that the collection will not return to the building which will be considered for a range of alternative uses. Durham City Conservation Area Appraisal identified the DLI Museum as a non- designated heritage asset/building of local interest:

While not possessing sufficient interest to be listed as of national importance, such buildings add to the general architectural richness and character of the area and it will be important that careful consideration is given to any development proposals that are likely to affect such building. (Durham County Council, 2016e, Character Area 2: Framwellgate p.36)

4.232 The Neighbourhood Planning Forum is presently looking into the possibility of bringing the DLI building back to life as a community asset. This policy links with green infrastructure Policy G2 which includes the designation of the DLI grounds as a Local Green Space.

4.233 The Forum is aware that the design of such facilities needs to be flexible to meet the needs of diverse audiences, changing patterns of use and demands of different art forms. There will be a need to ensure the proposal is deliverable and to establish arrangements for managing the facility over our Neighbourhood Plan period. Policy Implementation Project 3 in Chapter 5 indicates how this policy could be taken forward.


4.234 In 2014 the Arts Council England published ‘The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society.’ The report outlined a range of benefits that can be observed at individual, communal and national levels. Their findings concluded that arts and culture can:

  • illuminate our inner lives and enrich our emotional world;
  • boost local economies by attracting visitors, creating jobs and developing skills; attracting and retaining businesses, revitalising places and developing talent;
  • impact positively on our health and wellbeing;
  • contribute to community cohesion and reduce social exclusion and isolation;
  • improve educational outcomes.

4.235 The Forum’s priority survey with the community (Durham City Planning Forum, 2015) and its more recent detailed Arts and Culture Survey of local arts facilities (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning forum, 2017) reveal real gaps in facilities for the arts. For example, the only art gallery, together with the DLI Museum, was closed in 2016 and to date there are no plans for an ’equivalent alternative facility,’ as is required in the saved policy C9 from the Durham City Local Plan (City of Durham Council, 2004; Durham County Council, 2015a). Durham City with a population of 47,785 must be one of the few Cities in the UK without an art gallery or community arts centre or facilities.

4.236 The following gaps in provision have been identified at public events and in questionnaires:

  • a lack of community arts facilities, including studio space for artists that can be hired at reasonable rates, rooms for courses and rehearsal space, arts and crafts workshops for residents of all ages, and rooms for meetings of art organisations;
  • the need for a City Art Gallery, including gallery space for permanent and temporary exhibitions by national and local artists;
  • a lack of a City or County Museum;
  • lack of a central ‘information hub’;
  • potential for local artists to use empty shops;
  • need for a creative business centre for local artists and/or more independent shops to help small creative businesses to sell their products, build a consumer base and give local artists more exposure.

4.237 National and local policies and strategies also promote the importance of the cultural sector. The NPPF recognises the importance of the planning system in creating accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its cultural well-being (paras 7 and 17). It states (para 70) that policies should:

plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments

4.238 The Culture White Paper (Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 2016, p.34) states: “Greater local and national partnerships are necessary to develop the role of culture in place-making. We will require national institutions to back local vision”.

4.239 ‘The Sustainable Communities Strategy for County Durham 2014-2030’ (County Durham Partnership, 2014, p.20) states that a high level objective to achieving its ‘Altogether Wealthier’ vision by 2030 is a “Thriving Durham City … To deliver the cultural and tourism ambitions for the City which benefit the entire County. Through a variety of approaches, specifically the County Durham Cultural Programme we will improve the cultural offer within the county and increase opportunities for people to experience and take part in cultural activities.”

4.240 Durham County Council’s Service Plan, Neighbourhood Services, 2016- 2019 (Durham County Council, 2016j, p.18), itemises actions to achieve the ‘Thriving Durham City’ objective, including: “Identify new visual art space(s) within Durham City centre and the wider county” and “Review service format and future approach of the DLI Museum and gallery”.

4.241 On the ‘Arts development’ section on the Durham County Council website, the Council lists the following aims:

  • to support great art: encouraging and supporting arts activity that is both innovative and excellent
  • to increase the opportunities for people to take part in arts activity
  • to support arts activities that help to deliver the council’s vision of an ‘Altogether Better’ Durham

4.242 ixia (a public art think tank) organised three free briefing events on ‘public art, cultural well-being and the National Planning Policy Framework’ in 2012. John Holden (2012) in his presentation spoke of how:

The built environment can promote a rich cultural life for a community, but that environment needs to be animated in the right way, if it is to increase the cultural capacities and cultural well-being of individuals and communities.

4.243 He suggests that the elements needed, so that a community can both generate and experience cultural well-being, should include:

  • buildings of various sorts in both the public and commercial sectors for professional and community performance and display (such as village halls; art galleries; music venues that range from opera houses to pubs);
  • buildings that enable creative practice (for example artists’ studios, rehearsal rooms);
  • buildings for cultural education and learning (including archives, libraries);
  • cultural / commercial spaces (small scale retail used for cultural purposes, and food outlets as well).

Next section: Policy C2: Information Hub

3 Responses to Policy C1

  1. Durham City Access For All Group says:

    We support the proposal to bring the former DLI Museum and Art Gallery back into use. It was accessible to all visitors, with nearby car parking, and access to public transport.

  2. Peter Reynolds says:

    I agree with John Pacey’s comments, I think it is important to emphasise access to venues.

  3. John Pacey says:

    POLICY C 1
    I support this Policy very strongly, and wish to give emphasis to matters of access to possible venues, having regard to the important need for bands/performers to conveniently off-load instruments/equipment etc and the need to maximise audience attendance/participation through adjacent,(preferably free),car-parking.
    This is essential to assist financial sustainability.