A DEVELOPER believes his housing plan may be the “last roll of the dice” for project which could help protect a historical building for future generations.
Brian Nicholson has applied to turn former sheds at Dalton Pumping Station in Cold Hesldedon, near Seaham, into six homes and to build a house and five new apartments alongside them.
The businessman bought the site in 1994 from Sunderland and South Shields Water Company.
He said he put forward a host of projects, which he hoped would generate cash to set up a charitable trust and turn the pump house into an education attraction for schools and enthusiasts.
The businessman, from Hawthorn, fears refusal of his latest idea will mean the Grade II listed building falls back on to the at risk register and its future uncertain.
The site, which was built between 1873 and 1879 and is still home to a beam engine, has previously been targeted by lead thieves and is in need of repairs.
Mr Nicholson said: “This is the last roll of the dice and unless we can get this through, we’re going to be left with nothing for the site.
“If we can set up a charitable trust, we can open up the engine buildings for schools, visitors and heritage groups, and there’s a lot of people showing interest in it.
“I’ve had backing from people in the community, but it’s been like wading through treacle.
“It would be a good place to live and it’s only across the road from Dalton Park, which is going to expand.”
The new houses have been designed by architect firm Mario Minchella to include aluminium-frame windows, screen doors, lanterns and white render walls.
English Heritage has objected to the housing plans, unless a survey can show the level of development is needed to fund the pump house’s repairs, materials in the plans are changed to be in keeping with the existing building, and an agreement is put in place to ensure the engine house is repaired.
The Victorian Society shares the concerns and has objected on the basis the new houses would damage the setting of the building.
It also expressed concerns that the future use of the engine house and tower remains unresolved.
A decision over the application, which seeks full permission as well as listed building consent, will go before a Durham County Council planning committee on a date to be agreed.
UNDER its normal running speed, the engines inside Dalton Pumping Station made five strokes a minute, with each stroke delivering 140 gallons of water.
The pump house was linked to a well which had a drop of 450ft, with the water raised using a bucket lift and ramp pump.
Its construction was overseen by Thomas Hawksley, who was drafted in as a consulting engineer to the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company as it expanded to improve its service across the two towns and their villages.
At Cold Hesledon, he decided to draft in Cornish Engines and claimed they would be “the finest in the North of England.”
They were fired using four boilers, with range of improvements put in place to ensure they used coal economically.
The building has been praised for its ornamental design, with decorative touches including Caernarvon arches around its windows and an imposing gothic entrance.
During World War II, enemy action destroyed the electricity supply to the station, and it was replaced by another pumping station outside of the plot included in the planning application.
Hawksley also oversaw operations at Humbledon, Fulwell, Cleadon and Ryhope.