WORK has begun to transform a clubhouse into a new civic centre.
The former Seaham Red Star Club is being developed to become a new town hall for Seaham and its council, with a function room for hire and a 300-seat stage area to give East Durham’s theatre groups a new venue.
The project will cost just under £1million, with £170,000 generated through money gifted to the town through agreements made when builders Keepmoat and Yuill won planning permission to construct hundreds of new homes on their sections of the East Shore Village estate.
The rest has come from the sale of two houses in Princess Road Cemetery, with more expected with the sale of town council offices in Adelaide Row, which it says are no longer up to the job.
Work on the building, which the council took over in 2010, is expected to be complete in January.
It will also give visitors to the neighbouring park access to toilet facilities and the council hopes in time to set up a small cafe.
Council leader Eddie Bell said: “We were going to move into the new Seaham Contact Centre but when we had a think about it, the idea came about of a move to the Red Star, which was gifted to us in trusteeship, and we took the plunge to develop that.
“In time it will become an exemplar project, with solar panels and better facilities for people, and we hope that people will see it as a venue where they can hold family events, like weddings and after funerals, and use it as a community building with fair rates.”
It says it will also help close the gap in community venues left when Rock House and the Vane Tempest Social Welfare Hall closed down due to health and safety fears.
It will also host sessions including playgroups and luncheon clubs, training sessions and seminars.
The council has said while it will make a departure from its town centre base, its new location will nearer to more people’s homes.
Coun Bell, who is also a county councillor, added: “When we were looking at the options in a commercial setting, yes, we looked at the town centre.
“But when you draw a circle around the town centre, a large amount of that space is in the sea.
“If you draw a circle around the new location, then there is a greater number of people in the locality than in Seaham town centre, and we hope this will mean it is accessible.
“It’s also on good transport routes and there is a car park for people who come to do business with the council.
“We also hope in time it will create more opportunities for people.”
The town hall development is being supported by the county council and the East Durham Area Action Partnership, which was set up when the unitary authority was formed to give residents and organisations a voice about how services are run.