Burnley Town Hall's Victorian council chamber set to be closed for a further year

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Burnley Town Hall’s historic council chamber is set to be closed for another year as work continues on restoring the Victorian edifice – news which has prompted complaints from a borough resident that it represents “a huge drain on public money.”

News of the continued closure, revealed at a recent full council meeting, has been met with anger from a borough resident who contacted the Burnley Express to announce his displeasure.

The Burnley Express revealed in August 2020 that the project to renovate the town hall including the roofs and clock tower, which started in January 2019, had already cost more than £1.5m and had slipped by £310,000 becaue of the Covid pandemic.

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Resident Mr Bruce Ellis said: “Despite being in a time of financial crisis, the tax payer is still paying for the town hall to be repaired.

The town hall has suffered significant weather damage during the past 130 years. Photo: UK Restoration ServicesThe town hall has suffered significant weather damage during the past 130 years. Photo: UK Restoration Services
The town hall has suffered significant weather damage during the past 130 years. Photo: UK Restoration Services

“At the latest full council meeting, Coun. Sue Graham said the council chamber will be closed for another year, so by the time it is opened, it will have been closed for nearly four years and no doubt is still a huge drain on public money.

“Apparently Coun. Graham says this is better than a bit of plaster falling on a member. And it would be good if the council made it public just how much money the tax payer has forked out on this so called landmark building.

“If it was any other building, I am sure the councillors would be up in arms at the expense, but when it's public money, it doesn't seem as important.”

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Contractor UK Restoration Services began work on the 130-year-old building in 2019 after Burnley Council identified key areas that needed urgent attention.

The slate roof, guttering and exterior masonry were all highlighted with the clock tower also due to undergo extensive renovation.

In October 2021 Burnley Council applied for planning permission for repairs to the inner light well wall of the borough’s town hall in Manchester Road.

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A Burnley Council spokesperson said: “Burnley Town Hall is one of the most historically important buildings in the borough and is a classic example of Victorian architecture designed in a Renaissance style.

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“At the centre of this Grade II listed building, which celebrates its 135th anniversary next year, is the ornate council chamber which features, among other things, the coats of arms of other Lancashire authorities from the time it was built, including Manchester and Oldham, and a ‘frieze’ of landmark moments in the development of the town.

“Given its listed status, all the work has to be done in a way that restores the chamber to its original state. It is being carried out by one of the few firms in the country that are able to undertake such specialist work.

“The overall work being carried out is essential to protect and preserve this architectural and historic landmark building for future generations.”

The Renaissance-style Grade II-listed building was opened in 1888 on Manchester Road, built from sandstone with a central octagonal clock tower with a copper dome.