‘Completely unacceptable’: Cost of Ossett Town Hall refurbishment more than doubles to almost £3m, meeting told
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A councillor said parts of the building are “rotten to pieces” and blamed the spiralling costs of the project on the use of drone images to assess the Grade II listed building.
Wakefield Council has already apologised over lengthy delays in completing work.
The building, on Market Place, has been surrounded by scaffolding since August last year.
Built in 1908, Ossett Town Hall served as a civic centre, magistrates’ court and offices for Ossett Borough Council until 1974, when Ossett became part of Wakefield Council.
Restoration work is being carried out to the roof, clock tower and stonework and the town’s library is being moved from the ground floor to the first floor.
Tony Homewood, independent councillor for Ossett, said he had been told of the extent of the work required when he was given a tour of the building by a contractor.
He told a full council meeting: “We went all around Ossett Town Hall, all the way up to the town hall clock, which is rotten to pieces and having to be all replaced.
“What came to light on this visit was that, somewhere along the line, somebody decided to carry out a survey on a Grade II listed building that’s over a hundred years old, with a drone.
“Quite clearly, you can’t carry out a proper survey on a building of that nature with a drone.
“The downpipes, which are made of cast iron, have been there for a hundred years.
“A village idiot would know that they are going to require attention.
“But apparently there was nothing in the report for that.”
Coun Homewood said he had been told by the contractor that they had been asked to give a quote for the work based on the drone footage.
He added: “The brickwork is rotting away, because it has been pointed with concrete when it needs to be pointed with lime.
“I mean, who is doing this and why aren’t they being frogmarched in here to explain themselves?
“This is just completely unacceptable. So we have now got a budget that went from £1.2m, I believe, and it is almost approaching £3m.
“This required a proper survey, by somebody who knew what they were doing.
“Clearly that didn’t happen.
“Somebody needs to answer questions as to why this was allowed to happen, because you are talking a major piece of finance to make up the gap.”
In response, Coun Les Shaw, the council’s cabinet member for property and resource, said he had also attended the tour of the building with Coun Homewood and had spoken to him about it.
He said: “That’s in the past. We should look at how we do things better in the future.
“We have had that conversation and you know we have had that conversation.”
Last month, Natalie Palmer, the council’s interim service director for property, said: “We share everyone’s frustration that the refurbishment of Ossett Town Hall is taking longer than expected and apologise for the disruption
“Any additional work we have discovered during the refurbishment has had to follow the strict guidance that applies to such old buildings, and this has led to unexpected delays.
“The preservation of Ossett Town Hall is really important to us, and the people of the town, and we are working hard to complete the work as soon as possible.”
The work, which was due to be completed by the end of the year, is now expected to finish next summer.