Plans for Manchester City Council’s once-in-a-lifetime project to refurbish, partially restore and upgrade the city’s iconic Town Hall have been approved.
The Our Town Hall project, which is due to be completed in 2024, will safeguard the long-term future of the Grade I-listed building - which was designed by the celebrated architect Alfred Waterhouse and opened in 1877 - while increasing public access to its heritage features and treasures and enhancing its Albert Square setting.
895 documents were submitted by the project’s architect and heritage consultant Purcell, on behalf of the council, to cover plans for the Town Hall in minute detail, including applications for the listed building consent required to ensure that any necessary alterations to the nationally-important building are carried out in an appropriate way.
The plans include:
- Full restoration of parts of the building with the highest heritage importance, including the Great Hall.
- Refurbishment and repair work to the building’s fabric, doors and windows and roof.
- Improved accessibility, with extra lifts and sloped ramp access from the Albert Square and Cooper Street entrances
- Improved lighting inside and out, as well as the repair and restoration of lights with heritage importance
- Replacement and upgrade of the building’s heating – linking it into the new low-carbon Civic Quarter Heat Network – and other infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption
- The creation of a dedicated visitor centre within the Town Hall and improvements to catering facilities
The planning applications have also secured approval for scaffolding to be erected during the works, plus additional protective measures for the building and its special contents while the project is carried out.
Separate plans to turn Albert Square into one of Europe’s finest civic spaces, which would see it increase in size by around 20 per cent with only one side (Princess Street) remaining open to traffic, have also been approved at a meeting of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee on Thursday 16 January. The plans were submitted on behalf of the council by public realm specialists Planit-IE.
In advance of the works starting on site, the project is already providing employment and training opportunities for local people, including a group of 15 “M-Futures” apprentices. M-Futures is an apprenticeship scheme run by Manchester City Council, ManLife and Manchester College, which is focused on construction disciplines.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Approval for our plans to secure the long-term future of Manchester's civic centrepiece is a great milestone in the progress of this hugely complex, once-in-a-lifetime project.
"The detail and care which has gone into the work so far cannot be overstated and while there is much more to do, we're excited to take another step forward in the journey towards the Town Hall reopening to Mancunians and to the next chapter in its rich history."
Mark Goldspink, CEO of Purcell, said: “It is 143 years since the iconic Manchester Town Hall opened and over time this much-loved site has been a public landmark. Our aim is to help keep the Town Hall and Albert Square at the cultural heart of Manchester City as a flagship destination. We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with Manchester City Council and our project partners on this incredibly important project for the city.”
The scheme will be delivered by management contractor LendLease on behalf of the council.
Simon Gorski, Managing Director - Construction, Lendlease Europe, said: “Our Town Hall is a project with the local community at its heart, and it is incredibly important that they see the benefits of this scheme from day one. That’s why we’ll be providing more jobs and apprenticeships for local people, offering training and work placements for school and college-age children, and continuing to work closely with local stakeholders.”
The objectives guiding the Our Town Hall project are:
- Secure the long-term future of Manchester Town Hall, its civic role and external setting
- Retain and enhance as a functioning and efficient town hall
- Restore and celebrate this significant heritage asset for Manchester
- Enhance the use of building as a visitor destination and increase access for Mancunians
- Transform users’ and visitors’ experiences
- Reduce carbon footprint and energy costs
- Maximise commercial opportunities and offset costs to the public purse
- Deliver economic and social value for Manchester