Town’s £334,000 heart sculpture to be demolished – after only six years

The Civic Heart Arch, Chester-le-Street, which is to be demolished.

The Civic Heart Arch, Chester-le-Street, which is to be demolished.

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A COMMUNITY has fallen out of love with its Civic Heart.

The £334,000 arch sculpture was built in Chester-le-Street’s Market Place in 2007, by the now defunct district council after the area’s redevelopment.

Now it is to be demolished after 94 per cent who responded to a consultation agreed that it should be knocked down.

The survey was launched after the arch was found to have structural problems, leaving Durham County Council with a monthly £300 bill to monitor and keep it safe.

It has been fenced off since June and has already cost taxpayers £11,000.

An investigation blamed bad weather which caused some of the hexagonal briquettes on its surface to move.

In 2011 it was hit by a digger clearing snow, causing a weak spot on one of its corners and some of the briquettes to fall.

The council survey asked if residents were willing to see £282,000 spent to overhaul the work, with a further £5,000 a year to cover the cost of maintenance.

Other options were to partially repair it at a cost of £184,305, with the same maintenance cost, or knock it down and reinstate paving at a one-off cost of £47,919.

Of the 925 people who took part, 94.1 per cent supported removal.

Another 3.5 per cent believed it should be fully repaired and the briquettes replaced.

The remaining 2.4 per cent supported the proposal to partially repair the arch, an option which would have seen the briquettes removed and replaced with a concrete coating embossed with a pattern.

Council leader Simon Henig said: “The feedback we have received from the consultation gives the clear message that residents and businesses in Chester-le-Street believe the best option for future of the town centre is the demolition of the arch.

“In line with our promise to the public, now that we know their wishes we will waste no time in taking action to remove the arch and make good the Market Place.”

The council has to submit an application for prior approval for the demolition of the arch.

Subject to approval of the application and weather permitting, work is expected to begin at the end of February or beginning of March.

A structural examination last year revealed the briquettes had moved as a result of exposure to the weather and some are no longer properly supported.

The artwork stands at six metres high, measures almost 23 metres long, weighs six tonnes and is made of steel and covered with around 5,000 hexagonal briquettes.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham