Whitefield-based HH Smith has been selected to undertake the first phase of work to restore the grade one-listed building on The Esplanade and will start on site in the coming days.
Rochdale Council has already granted planning permission to the scheme and secured £8.3m from the National Lottery Fund last October enabling it to kickstart the project. The council intends to fund the remaining £14m scheme cost.
HH Smith is to carry out critical work over the next six months such as electricals, drainage, wiring and the stripping out of modern additions, like mezzanine floors and MDF partitions, which the council says are not in keeping with the character of the building.
This work will get the town hall ready for the next phase of regeneration – a restoration of the 149-year-old building’s heritage features, including the Magna Carta mural, ornate ceiling panels in the Great Hall, stained glass windows and wood carvings.
Additionally, a permanent exhibition space is to be created in the committee rooms on the ground floor, under the plans, while the old library on the ground floor will house a community space called the Bright Hall to be used for small functions and by community groups.
Meanwhile, the area around the town hall will be redeveloped through the creation of a public square that could be used for events or leisure purposes. The project is being led by the Rochdale Development Agency on behalf of Rochdale Council. The building is to reopen to the public in 2023.
The Victorian Gothic-era Rochdale Town Hall is often used as a filming location. The restoration work is expected to create a host of other employment, volunteering and training opportunities for local residents, and HH Smith has said it wants to ensure that 65% of the workforce on the contract live within five miles of Rochdale.
Rob Smith, construction director at HH Smith, said: “We’re delighted to be working on the prestigious Rochdale Town Hall regeneration project.
“To be able to demonstrate our restoration capabilities so close to home is a privilege and we welcome the opportunity to provide the many additional social benefits within the local community.”
Cllr John Blundell, cabinet member for a thriving economy at Rochdale Council, added: “This incredibly exciting project is ready to get underway as we start a new year. The town hall is an important building, which has a special place in the hearts of many Rochdalians.
“It’s served us well for 150 years and this work will ensure it will serve our residents and visitors for another 150 and many more.”
The project team also includes Donald Insall Associates as conservation architect; Max Fordham as MEP engineer; Frank Whittle Partnership as cost manager; Price and Myers as structural engineer; Focus Consultants as business planner; Redman Design as interpretation and exhibition designer, and the Heritage Angel & Minerva Heritage as activity planners.