THE COST of replacing the roof on Stalybridge’s Civic Hall could now approach £3 million – more than five times its initial estimate.
Original costings for the work, scheduled to start in August, saw a £558,000 sum increase to £1.69 million in 2021.
But according to the latest report for Tameside Council, the maximum figure it may set them back is £2,893,000.
The eye watering amount is sure to raise eyebrows, especially as work was delayed so the building can help house events during Stalybridge’s tenure as Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture.
But according to the report: “The cost plan includes a number of un-costed exclusions.
“The exclusions are due to the fact that some elements of the scheme cannot be priced until the existing roof has been stripped back to expose the underlying structures.
“The exclusions include the removal, storage and replacement of the solar panels or the provision of new solar panels if it identified that the current panels cannot be reused.
“Any remedial works to the brickwork and re-bedding of copings to parapets, any works to the clock tower and any works to the man-safe system.
“There has been no contingency allowance included for items such as any timber repairs that may be necessary.”
Tameside Council says the £19.9 million awarded by the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, along with a further £320,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, will help ‘mitigate against these un-costed exclusions.’
But it warned the latest figure from April, ‘remains subject to change and the total scheme costs cannot be fixed until a design and build contract has been signed as the council also carries inflation risk until the contract signed.’
Tameside Council’s executive cabinet heard the roof at Stalybridge Civic Hall is in poor condition and was deemed as being beyond repair following survey work undertaken in 2019 and 2021 and therefore requires a full restoration.
The cost has increased because of external factors and additional funding was required as the original allocation related to repair and restoration rather than replacement.
But the report for the cabinet defended the delay, adding: “The works to complete the restoration of the Civic Hall roof in the period March to November 2022 would have resulted in the temporary closure of the main hall space within for the duration of the restoration scheme.
“This is due to the need to replace the roof-lights over the main hall along with the introduction of a “safety crash-deck” which would have rendered the area unusable.
“The availability of the Civic Hall as a centre piece in the cultural programme of activities planned for the Town of Culture year was an important factor in achieving the best possible outcomes for the town in both financial and reputational terms.
“In order to realise the full potential of the Town of Culture award to Stalybridge, the roof restoration scheme was therefore put on hold.
“The decision to delay the roof restoration scheme in order to take full advantage of the Town of Culture award has resulted in significant cultural and reputational benefit not only to Stalybridge but to the borough as a whole.
“The availability of the flexible indoor space of sufficient size within the hall during the Town of Culture year meant that the Bridge and the council’s arts and engagement team was able to build and continue to grow their partnerships with big organisations like the Halle, the Factory and the Royal Exchange Theatre.
“Having access to the Civic Hall space during the Town of Culture year has enabled a wide variety of content to be realised and piloted within the space including the development of the pods into temporary pop-up spaces, theatres and installations.
“This will help to inform future options for the long-term sustainable use of the building with its role as a community venue and hub in the heart of the town centre.”
Several suggestions have been made to convert the building into a food hall, along the lines of Altrincham Market and Manchester’s Mackie Mayor.
According to documents, work is scheduled to start in August and last until May next year.
And speaking at the executive cabinet meeting, Councillor Jacqueline North said: “We have now got the final piece of funding necessary to complete the work on this historic building which is in the middle of the heritage zone.”