Council to explore funding options to repair ‘decrepit’ Town Hall

September 16, 2013

Newry and Mourne District Council have responded to fears that Newry’s premier civic building, the Town Hall has fallen into such a dangerous state of disrepair that it may face closure due to health and safety concerns.

Sinn Féin councillor Charlie Casey warned that the historic building risked closure following revelations in a recent Council meeting about its dilapidated condition.

Councillor Casey explained that while remedial works have been undertaken to the Town Hall over the past ten years, they have not addressed fundamental structural problems with the building which he said may now have to close due to safety risks.

“The Town Hall is a building which is loved by the people of Newry.  It represents the vitality of Newry’s civic society and is home to many of the city’s landmark events such as the annual Newry Feis and numerous dramatic productions each year,” he said.

He revealed that Council’s Environmental Health Building Control have warned that if urgent attention is not given to the building it may not be safe for public use, adding that the estimated cost of completely renovating the building stood at approximately £3 million, money which is “simply not available.”

Suggesting that a focus group should be established to examine the possibility of securing additional monies for this urgent work, he said, “Newry & Mourne Council officials must ensure that council owned properties are maintained to the highest standards.  It is not good enough that the Town Hall has fallen into such a decrepit and dangerous state.

“I have instructed council staff to be looking at ways in which we can obtain funding to complete works to make this building fit for purpose.  It would no doubt be very embarrassing for council officials if Newry City was forced to close its premier civic building.”

A Council spokesperson told The Examiner that a meeting is scheduled to take place this month to discuss options presented in a recently-completed Feasibility Study on the use of the Town Hall as an Arts venue and various options presented in the study.

“This meeting will be attended by Councillors and Senior Officials” said the spokesperson who said that ‘Option one: Do Nothing’ has already been discounted by Councillors as “the building is maintained by Council.

“The remaining options range in cost and scope from £687,000 up to £7,000,000.  In the past ten years two condition reports have been carried out on the Town Hall, one of which, by Alastair Coey Architects, was completed in the last few weeks, as a follow-up to a report carried out in 2006.

“Major re-roofing work was carried out in 2005/06 meaning the building then was substantially free from leaks and water penetration and there were few defects of structural significance.  The updated condition report will form part of discussions at the forthcoming meeting.”

The Council source went on to outline the objectives of the Feasibility Study carried out by KPMG, which include providing a modern, accessible and fit-for-purpose arts facility suitable for different uses; maximising use of the building including its ancillary space through appropriate zoning for different uses; providing a modern facility to be used by amateur groups as well as attract professional groups; enhancing shared space and increased interaction of the whole community; contributing to Newry’s City Centre Master Plan for the regeneration of the City.

“The Feasibility Study, commissioned by Council and co-funded by Arts Council Northern Ireland describes a range of funding options for the proposed refurbishment of the Town Hall.  These have yet to be discussed so it is not possible to speculate at this stage where the funding may come from,” he added.