No opening date in sight as £3.2million arts centre renovation project is dogged by delays (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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No opening date in sight as £3.2million Barnard Castle arts centre renovation project is dogged by delays
A MULTI-million pound arts centre restoration project has been dogged by delays which have left frustrated trustees unable to say when the complex will reopen to the public.
A gala night featuring some of the country's top comedy acts was due to have signalled the completion of work at The Witham, in Horse Market, Barnard Castle, ahead of an official opening later in the year.
But instead of playing to a sell-out 250-strong audience in a state-of-the-art theatre, the event, headlined by TV star Mark Watson, will go ahead tonight (Friday) at the town's 150 capacity Parish Hall, in Newgate, after organisers were forced into a last-minute switch of venue.
The Witham project has involved the restoration of two Grade II listed buildings along with the construction of a new link building.
Once finished, facilities will include a theatre and cinema, cafe, studio space, library and Durham County Council customer access point.
However, progress on work, which began in July last year, has been hit by a number of suppliers going out of business, which has meant re-sourcing materials.
While work was ongoing, previously unknown sewers were discovered which required further investigation, leading to a further delay.
Finally, contractors discovered they had to carry out additional work to ensure the complex complied with modern building standards.
The project is being led by The Withan trustees, Barnard Castle Vision and Durham County Council.
Chris Clark, chairman of The Witham trustees, said: “The challenges of working on a building of this nature cannot be underestimated and clearly this work must be carried out properly.”
Sue Berresford, principal project manager at Durham County Council, added: “We are aware that there is a lot of local interest in this project and will of course announce an opening date for The Witham and for the town’s new library and council customer access point as soon as we can.”
Tom Deacon, Matt Richardson, Eric Lampaert, Foil Arms and Hog and Nat Luurtsema will provide the support for Mark Watson at the comedy gala.
Romesh Ranganathan, who had been part of the line-up, has pulled out due to other commitments.
The show, which is a sell-out, starts at 8pm, with doors open at 7.30pm.
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