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Manchester Town Hall refurbishments could cost more than £400 million

A major project to repair and refurbish Manchester Town Hall and nearby Albert Square could cost between £250 million and £400 million.

That's according to a recent council report, which took into account survey work that has been conducted since December 2014. The building, which was constructed between 1868 and 1877, requires a lot of work to get it back in tip-top condition and to secure its long-term future.

Surveyors found that much of the grade I-listed structure is in poor condition. Electrics, plumbing, heating, ventilation and lift installations are all reflecting their age and will require repairs or replacement. The building also needs to be fitted out with thermal wall insulation and other measures to improve its energy efficiency rating.

Other problems include structural issues, poor drainage and uneven surfacing. The building's ICT offering is also inadequate.

In total, some 54,000 parts of the building fabric need attention, with 40 per cent requiring immediate repair or replacement. If action isn't taken within the next five years, this number could rise to 85 per cent.

What's more, the survey also found that building is also underused. There's a huge amount of wasted space in areas like the basement and there's also a low ratio of staff to office space. This will become even more apparent in coming months since some staff are being moved on a precautionary basis out of areas where remedial works are required.

Now that the survey work has been completed, the question is what steps need to be taken. The council has explained that it has four options:

  • Doing nothing would likely lead to large portions of Manchester Town Hall being mothballed, and ultimately the building could be closed down completely.
  • Carrying out only essential works - at an estimated cost of £250 million - would prevent further decline of the building, ensure it meets legal standards and keep spaces useable.
  • Taking the opportunity to upgrade the building would mean improved access and bringing all spaces up to modern standards, It would also restore key heritage features and create commercial opportunities. For example, a small boutique hotel or gym could be included and this would help to offset costs in the longer term. This would cost around £330 million.
  • Finally, the comprehensive option would ensure that the entire building was brought up to modern standards. It would also ensure that all heritage features were restored. This would cost more than £400 million.

Meanwhile, plans for Albert Square include upgrades to keep the public space a focal point of popular events like the Christmas Market, the Manchester International Festival and City Games.

Bernard Priest, deputy council leader, explained that the building is an icon for the city that belongs to everyone. But it's nearly 140 years old and he warned that it's showing its age. If repairs aren't made it could become unusable.

"Instead, we need to seize the opportunity to safeguard it for current and future generations, make the building and its treasures more accessible to Mancunians and visitors alike and bring it up to modern access and safety standards," he added.


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