Plans outlined for gallery and restaurant at Durham's DLI museum

The museum has been closed since 2016. Credit: Durham County Council

Plans have been outlined for how a historic former regimental museum in Durham will be redeveloped.

Durham County Council has put forward its vision for how the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) museum, based at Aykley Heads, could look - including an exhibition centre, gallery and restaurant.

A planning application including the council's initial redevelopment ideas for the site has been submitted after a public consultation on the plans.

The museum has been closed since 2016.

The lower ground floor of the museum will include the main visitor entrance, reception, a gift shop and café while the ground floor will have a dedicated Durham Light Infantry (DLI) gallery and a visitor restaurant.

New galleries on the upper floor would host exhibitions including loans from national museums and art galleries.

The council hopes between 60,000 and 150,000 people will visit the site each year.

The DLI collection, previously housed at the museum site, is currently being moved to a new £20million history centre based at the Grade II listed Mount Oswald Manor House, in South Road, Durham.

The project was started by the Durham County Council's former Labour administration.

However, opposition councillors have criticised the new plans, branding it as an "exclusive eatery".

Labour Deputy Leader, Cllr Rob Crute, said: "The coalition has played on the emotional connection people have with our proud DLI history, dangling the carrot of its re-opening and claiming it's fulfilling an election promise to 'reopen the DLI Museum', but the building is practically derelict and deemed unusable by the DLI Trustees.

"The coalition revealed proposals last year to create a high-end restaurant, exhibiting a few items from the DLI collection as a token gesture, to try and hide the fact it wanted to use taxpayers' money to fund what is nothing more than an exclusive eatery."

However, the council says the former museum will host a rotating display of DLI memorabilia as well as the exhibition at Mount Oswald.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, on behalf of the joint administration, said: "The museum's restaurant and other exhibition space will enhance the financial sustainability and appeal of the attraction and, crucially, we will actively promote it, and the new garden of remembrance and reflection.

"All of this is in stark contrast to Labour's approach, which, in sequence, was to keep the same items on display all the time, then refuse to promote the museum, then refuse to invest in it, then finally to close it in 2016 so no-one has been able to enjoy any of the collection since.

"That was a disgraceful dereliction of duty and insult to the memory of the Durham Light Infantry. The Joint Administration is doing the opposite and will create a vibrant cultural venue for County Durham that will allow residents and visitors to the area to celebrate and commemorate the DLI."

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