Darlington Public Sector Hub and DfE

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Background

In April 2013, the Department for Education announced that the Council’s offer to provide new office accommodation as part of an exciting Public Sector Hub was their preferred property option for their relocation from Mowden Hall, Darlington. The DfE decision to relocate within Darlington is a significant opportunity for the Borough and will result in about 375 jobs being brought to the town centre.

The development will comprise of a 3,000sqm new office development with a physical link to the Town Hall providing a shared space and meeting facilities. The co-location of the two public sector bodies provides an exciting opportunity to realise cost efficiencies and service improvements across both organisations.

Following this decision, the Council and DfE have worked in partnership with the lead contractor Willmot Dixon and their design team, to formulate the design proposals for the development.

View the report

What's happening now

The building work for the new Department for Education building began on December 9. It is estimated that the build will take around 59 weeks with the frame in place by February 2014. The £8m development will accommodate 375 workers from the Department for Education.

The Steel Frame is currently being erected:

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Weekly look ahead – Works commencing 17 March 14

  • Steelwork and precast erection will continue. The noise will be the same here.
  • Substructure blockwork is to commence starting next to the existing town hall. This will create minimal noise and will involve a couple of men.
  • Edge Protection will commence to the steel. This will involve a cherry picker and 3 scaffolders.
  • Netting for the commencement of the metal decking will commence to the upper floors.
  • Metal decking will commence to the upper floors. This has the potential to be noisy with the fixing of the metal decking to the steel. We will obviously attempt to mitigate however as you can understand, with certain trades we cannot completely avoid this noise (there will be similar levels of noise to the steelworkers).

The archaeological dig

The site has been excavated in preparation for building works to begin on the December 9 2013. The site was open to the public over three days, in total over 250 people visited the site to view the excavations.

No doubt people will be curious as to what the archaeological team working at the rear of the Town Hall on the DfE site has uncovered. There have been many ideas put forward from staff including the remains of a Roman palace and the Bishop’s Palace.

Findings by the team from Archaeological Services, Durham University, however, seem to suggest that the walls they have uncovered form the footprint of a building thought to be an early 19th century poor house.

It is thought that the poor house was built using material from the Bishop’s Palace, a big medieval manor house belonging to the Bishops of Durham. As well as the manor house there were several other buildings including a brewhouse, tithe barn and stables. The manor house was surrounded by parkland and was originally built in the 12th century. As the dig progresses evidence of earlier activity from the bishop's manor is also coming to light.

As well as some of the remaining foundations of the poor house, the team has found fragments of cooking pots and animal bones. The remains of a series of columns can also be seen. These are the pile drives from the 1960s extension to the Town Hall that did not materialise.

Niall Hammond, from Arcaeo-Environment said ‘Darlington is an historic town with its roots in Anglo-Saxon times over a thousand years ago, this archaeological site is providing a rare and wonderful opportunity to uncover and understand some of that history.’

Over 250 came to have a look at what was found in November when the site was opened to the public.

The findings have all been taken back to Durham University for investigation but will eventually be displayed locally, and potentially used in the development of the Riverside.

Darlington Feethams Open Day Talk Presentation [pdf document]

Enabling the development

The Council closed part of the Town Hall car park on 23 September 2013.

  • The entrance from Church Row will be closed
  • The car park on the site of the former bus depot will remain open as usual
  • There are no changes proposed to parking for Shopmobility or disabled parking under the canopy of the Town Hall
  • There is no change proposed to the Pedestrian and Cycle routes from Lead Yard Bridge through the closed car park

Further information on car parking within Darlington can be found at our transport and streets pages

Should you wish to speak to anyone in relation to this matter, please contact Jill Thwaite at jill.thwaite@darlington.gov.uk or by phone on 01325 388629.

Plans and drawings