A new history centre in County Durham has been awarded funding for low carbon measures to be installed during its build, ensuring it offers a more sustainable future.

Durham County Council has received almost £1.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund to include a number of environmentally friendly measures when it restores the grade II listed Mount Oswald Manor House to turn it into a vibrant and interactive local history hub.

The grant will allow the council to install photovoltaic panels, a smart heating and cooling system and a ground source heat pump that could meet almost 90 per cent of the building’s heating demand and 60 per cent of its cooling demand.

This will reduce the energy consumption of Durham History Centre and cut the greenhouse gases emitted from the site, saving more than 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year compared to if it was built without the measures.

Positioned on the roof of the new extension, the photovoltaic panels won’t adversely impact upon the setting of the listed building and could meet almost 12 percent of the building’s electrical requirements.

Following a Climate Emergency being declared by the council last year, it is looking to reduce its overall carbon emissions by more than half over the next 100 years. It is also investigating how the county can become carbon neutral by 2040.

Cllr John Clare, Durham County Council’s climate change champion, said: “It is fantastic that the new Durham History Centre will not only help us to celebrate our history, but also help us to safeguard our future through its use of more environmentally friendly, low carbon measures.

“Having declared a Climate Emergency last year, it is absolutely right that we look to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions in our new projects and work towards our target of becoming carbon neutral as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “This is a great step forward for the Durham History Centre project. The history centre belongs to the people of County Durham and it is fantastic that people of all ages will be able to discover more about those who came before them in a building that is greener, more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The grant will make a big difference to ensuring the building secures its place in the future, while history continues to be made through its weddings and civil ceremonies.”

Aimed at telling the story of County Durham’s past through historic records, photographs and objects, Durham History Centre will provide a secure future for the more than five miles of county archives, charting almost 900 years of history, which are currently located in County Hall. It will also provide a home for historic registration records, environmental and archaeological records, and local studies collections. And, for the first time since 1998, all items from the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) collection, currently housed at Sevenhills in Spennymoor, and the DLI archives, which are currently cared for by Durham County Record Office, will be brought together under one roof.

The project will also see the relocation from Aykley Heads of Durham Register Office, offering enhanced facilities for weddings and civil ceremonies making the most of the historic setting and the surroundings of the manor house.

It is hoped work can begin on site next year with a view to opening to the public in 2023.

To find out more about Durham History Centre and to keep up to date with the latest news, visit www.durham.gov.uk/historycentre

The council is also keen to gain residents’ views to help shape the centre’s exhibitions and events programme. The consultation runs until 5pm, 25 October 2020. To take part, visit
https://www.durham.gov.uk/article/24240/Durham-History-Centre-phase-3-consultation