(Above) Up to 2,000 jobs are expected to be created when the former ice rink in the Riverside area of Durham is overhauled
An "eyesore" former ice rink is set to play a key role in the cultural overhaul of Durham after planners snapped up the city centre site as part of an ambitious regeneration scheme.
Regional Development Agency One North East will buy the building for a commercial development on the edge of the Durham Cathedral World Heritage Site. The ambitious new project could create up to 2,000 jobs in the Riverside area of the city.
"The ice rink has been in a state of disrepair for some time now so it is exciting to see that new life will be breathed in to it," said James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce.
"Durham is a remarkable city with wide-ranging regeneration plans. This will have a profound difference on its cultural, business and community offering.
"That area of the city is being transformed and has already proven a serious draw at a cultural level."
The former ice rink is based on the edge of Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site
David Cramond, Director of Capital Development at One North East, said: "The ice rink building dominates this length of the river and is out of step with the adjacent modern Walkergate development, the award-winning Freeman's Place Leisure Centre and new hotel developments.
"One North East has acted to secure public sector control of this strategically located site and the demolition of an eyesore on the edge of a World Heritage Site."
The scheme is part of Durham City Vision, an initiative between local cultural, economic and academic leaders founded in 2004 to support improvement plans in the region.
"It has taken a lot of hard work by us and all our partners in Durham City Vision to reach this stage," added Cramond. "We are now confident that development can move forward quickly and will have a major long-term economic impact on the city."
Last month Durham County Council launched a bid to become the first UK City of Culture in a three-pronged campaign of activities, festivals and events.