Twentieth Century Society and The City of Durham Trust are objecting to a planning proposal to “demolish” the Radio Mast at Aykley Heads Police Headquarters.
Remarkably, the application is to demolish a mast that has not been erected – or rather, re-erected. It was taken down in 2017, when Durham police moved their headquarters at Aykley Heads.
Designed by the office of the celebrated Ove Arup – who engineered Sydney Opera House and Durham City’s own Kingsgate Bridge (1963) – the space age concrete Radio Mast was installed in 1968 and is Grade II Listed. Its elegant structure forms a tripod from which the communications mast rises. It was a condition of the planning permission to allow a housing development on the old police headquarters site that the mast be retained and re-erected at Aykley Heads.
To the dismay of the City of Durham Trust, which has issued frequent reminders to the police to fulfil the terms of their planning consent, the mast is now the subject of a proposed “demolition”.
The City of Durham Trust is concerned that the mast’s architectural value to Durham’s skyline should not be easily cast aside, but should be kept as one of the city’s few 20th Century assets. The Police Radio Mast is a terrific statement on Durham’s engagement in cutting edge technology in the 20th Century. Durham Police now claim that the mast is no longer able to be erected, having deteriorated while lying on the ground for five years. The City of Durham Trust is objecting to the planning proposal to demolish the mast on the grounds that neglecting to maintain the structure is not a sound reason for applying for planning consent to be rid of it. It is an important principle in the planning process that neglect is not a cause for demolition – otherwise, anyone could allow a Listed building to deteriorate if they wished to see it demolished.
Durham NARPO (National Association Retired Police Officers): Radio Mast from ‘old’ Police HQ on the move
BFI (British Film Institute) Player: Radio Mast for Police Headquarters, Aykley Heads, Durham
The principle is so important, particularly where it is a significant public body that is pleading relief from a planning requirement. They asked to be allowed to re-locate the mast so that an extra 18 houses could be built on the released land. They obtained approval only because they undertook to re-erect the mast. They wanted and received a significant cash benefit from the planning approval. It is difficult to accept that they should be allowed to behave like unscrupulous private developers sometimes practice.