FEARS have been raised that a piece of Darlington’s architectural heritage could be lost forever, if plans to convert it into a private home are turned down.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee will next week debate plans to convert an grade II-listed 18th-Century octagonal-plan dovecote, which has been vacant for 30 years, into a residential property.

The owners of the dovecote, in the grounds of Low Middleton Hall, in Middleton St George, want to convert it into a flat.

The proposed development would include the creation of two new floors, an open plan kitchen/living room on the second floor and a bedroom and separate bathroom on the first floor.

The ground floor would be given over to a store room, utility room and entrance hall, with the floors connected by an oak staircase.

No objections have been received from occupiers of neighbouring properties, although Middleton St George Parish Council is opposed to the plans.

It says it would set a precedent for further developments, because it is an agricultural and listed building that falls outside the agreed development area.

The dovecote stands on a raised mound in the centre of agricultural land, isolated from surrounding buildings.

Planning officers are recommending that the proposals be approved subject to a string of conditions.

In a report to committee members, the borough council’s conservation officer warned of the danger of the dovecote being lost if the application is refused.

They wrote: “While it is preferable to locate residential dwellings within the development limits, this conversion offers the opportunity to bring back one of Darlington’s important and unique heritage assets into a viable use and protect it for the future.

“Having been vacant for 30 years, no other uses have been proposed to our knowledge.

“Should a residential use not be supported within this building, it will be at great risk of being lost forever.”

“The proposed design of the dovecote makes minimal changes to the original structure and has been well thought out to protect the significance of the listed building.”

The application also includes plans for a detached carport and storage building.

The planning committee meets at 1.30pm on Wednesday (February 13).

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