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Friday, 25 April 2014

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We won’t let historic hall fall to disrepair

A £490,000 scheme to restore and update Carlisle’s Grade-I listed Old Town Hall is to go ahead in the New Year.

The city council’s ruling executive has agreed to find an extra £109,000 to allow the work to proceed after English Heritage reduced its funding.

Councillors had to choose between carrying out only essential maintenance or a doing a comprehensive overhaul, including a new roof. They took the second option.

Deputy leader Colin Glover said: “It’s a Grade-I listed building that occupies an iconic site in the city centre and acts as a gateway to the historic quarter.

“These works will secure its future for many years to come.

“At the moment there are leaks on the inside that require us to use buckets.

“That’s not an appropriate way to act as the custodians of one of the city’s principal buildings.”

The first floor of the Old Town Hall houses the city’s tourist information centre and the Assembly Room, which is hired out for meetings and functions.

The ground floor facing Green Market is let to retailers and Costa coffee.

The overhaul will cost £490,200, of which £434,400 is coming from the city council and £55,800 from English Heritage. The council had hoped that English Heritage would contribute up to £255,000.

But Mr Glover said: “They are indicating they can fund only essential works to keep the building going.

“To carry out only essential repairs would only last for 10 years. Our proposal [to spend more] will give a complete remedy and ensure the building is water tight for the next 40 years.

“We will get the job done properly and look after the building the way we are expected to do.”

As well as roof repairs, the scheme includes removal of asbestos, reinstatement of lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings, and a new reception counter and carpet for the tourist information centre.

Long term, the council is exploring options for a new entrance lobby for the tourist office and to replace the lift.

Work is due to start in January and should be finished by June.

The building dates from 1668-69, with a 1717 extension, and was built on the site of the medieval town hall.

JWhittle@cngroup.co.uk

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