COUNCILLORS have said the auction of a Victorian school could be key to reviving the fortunes of a fire hit town centre.
Front Street in Stanley was devastated by two major blazes in historic buildings last year and traders have been calling for action to regenerate the area.
Now a former Victorian school is going under the hammer and it is hoped a developer will take it to breathe new life into the local economy.
Stanley Board School, the old headmasters’ house and annex buildings are expected to fetch at least £225,000 when they auctioned next month.
Durham County Council, which owned the buildings before they were sold privately, has said they would be ideal for commercial purposes, such as food and drink, leisure or residential.
Councillor Carl Marshall, who represents the area on Durham County Council, said: “It would be nice to see the building acquired by someone who would like to develop the site.
“The town is short on retail space on the Front Street and something that could improve the night time economy but the building is in need of significant investment.
“Hopefully, the site can be developed as it is a key site in the town.”
The school was built from stone over an eight year period from 1891-99 and is in the middle the pedestrian area of the town’s main shopping street.
Councillor Christine Bell, who represents the area on Stanley Town Council and is chairwoman of Stanley Traders Association, said: “The potential is astronomical. Stanley is in deep need of low cost clothing and shoes shops. I want to keep people in Stanley doing their shopping.
“They could create lots of mini shops on the site so people with great ideas can set up a business and try something in the short term, I hope the people bidding see the potential in Stanley.”
The three buildings are being offered separately auction with individual guide prices of £75,000 each by Pugh and Company in Leeds.
There is also the option to purchase all three as one complete lot.
Stuart Timmiss, head of planning and assets at Durham County Council, said: “We welcome the fact that these buildings are now on the market and hope that this improves the prospect of the site becoming part of a vibrant and sustainable town centre for Stanley.
“We would of course be happy to work with any prospective owners regarding the potential development opportunities that exist.”
The auctioneers are holding viewings in the run up to the auction on Tuesday September 9 at Elland Road Stadium.
Enquiries should be made directly by calling 08442-722-444 or through the website www.pugh-auctions.com.