STALYBRIDGE’S civic and market hall will cost more than £1 million extra than was first thought to be brought back into use after a ‘shock’ new survey.
But councillors have refuted claims they ‘did not do their homework’ over the project.
A more detailed report unearthed the expensive task of completely replacing the skylight windows that lie on top of the building, rather than repairing the existing ones, in order to complete a renovation.
That has lifted the cost from an initial £559,000 to almost £1.7 million and attracted criticism from Stalybridge South councillor Doreen Dickinson.
And even Tameside Council’s executive member for finance and economic growth, Cllr Oliver Ryan admitted it was a ‘shock’ and added: “If I’d had a heart reading at the time, mine would’ve been through the roof.”
At the meeting of the authority’s Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel, Cllr Dickinson said: “I’m clearly supportive of this work but if I’m budgeting for something, I do my homework and know roughly how much I’ll need to put aside.
“There’s a massive difference between a budget of £558,950 and an actual cost of £1.7 million.
“It’s no wonder the capital programme is in a mess and it shows how important it is to get a clear idea of what schemes are to be undertaken, a realistic budget and how it’ll be funded, which doesn’t seem to have happened here.”
Tameside’s assistant director of strategic property Paul Smith, who confirmed old solar panels that were on there should be reinstalled, detailed the extra work that is needed and how it was found.
He said: “We did a Stage One pricing for the roof, then when we came to look at it in more detail it became apparent the large windows need completely replacing.
“It would be a false job to leave them there. We’d have to come back in a couple of years’ time.
“Also, there’s a Mansafe safety system that spans the whole roof, you can’t operate the roof without it.
“That was intended to be re-used but it can’t be.”
Stalybridge town centre was selected as Tameside’s focus for the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge in 2018.
It is also part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ), which is designed to deliver physical improvements and cultural activities to revive and regenerate high streets and restore local historic character.
It secured £1,275,000 of funding through Historic England that was matched by the authority and a detailed capital programme plan, which will outline the projects and spend of the funding up to March 31, 2024 is being drawn up.
But Cllr Ryan, as well as council leader Cllr Brenda Warrington, detailed their surprise at the news.
He also countered Cllr Dickinson’s ‘homework’ claim, saying: “Nobody was more shocked than myself and the leader when we saw the difference in price.
“We weren’t expecting to do a full replacement, now we are.
“We see it as a priority for us but it’s the right thing to do. It was a bit of a shock but the end of them matter is we’ve got to make sure this building, which is part of our heritage, is safe and secure.
“It’s much bigger but you either do it or you don’t. We can’t do it on the cheap.”
Cllr Warrington added: “It’s one of those situations and I experienced it at home, where you think a job is quite straight forward then the experts come in and find something like woodworm or something you haven’t been thinking of at all.
“You unfold other problems as you are doing things, that’s what we’re up against here. We want to make sure it’s a proper job, not a botch-up job for the sake of doing something.”