Town Hall Could Close
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
NEWRY Town Hall faces permanent closure after falling into such disrepair that making it fit for continued usage could cost millions.
That's the warning from Sinn Féin councillor Charlie Casey, who was speaking after a recent meeting on the matter.
As exclusively revealed by the Democrat last month, a council commissioned feasibility study into the refurbishment of Newry Town Hall found a notable decline in events being booked at the facility, particularly in 2012, and suggested this "could relate to the facilities and conditions in the Town Hall".
The report noted a 2006 council commissioned study by Alastair Coey Architects which found that around £345,000 (in 2006) of work was needed to make the Town Hall fit for purpose but added that there was no follow-up on these findings, with no material work carried out since.
Now Mr Casey is warning that fundamental structural problems with the building may force its closure on health and safety grounds.
“No one would be happy to see the Town Hall closing," the Newry Town councillor said. "But 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. It is estimated that it would take approximately £3million to completely renovate the Town Hall and at present those funds are simply not available."
Calling for the founding of a focus group aimed at identifying potential funding sources, Mr Casey lambasted council officials for the Town Hall's neglect to date.
“It is not good enough that the Town Hall has fallen into such a decrepit and dangerous state," he said.
“I have instructed council staff to begin 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."
Council is set to meet this month on the future of the Town Hall, with its most recent feasibility study outlining a series of options ranging in cost and scope from £687,000 up to £7m. An updated condition report is also on the agenda for consideration.
But a council spokeswoman said it's to early to identify where the funding for works needed will come from.
“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," the spokeswoman said. "These have yet to be discussed so it is not possible to speculate at this stage where the funding may come from."
She added that the building is currently "fully compliant with all necessary health and safety, disability and access requirements".
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