Our Town Hall project: All systems go for main phase of works

Town hall

Town hall

The main phase of work to refurbish, partially restore and upgrade Manchester Town Hall will get underway at the end of this month, March 2020.

The once-in-a-lifetime project to safeguard the Grade I-listed gem, while bringing it up to modern accessibility and safety standards, is one of Britain’s biggest heritage schemes. The work will also see Albert Square transformed to become one of Europe’s finest public squares and events spaces. At the project’s peak as many as 560 people will be working on site. 

A large proportion of those people will be from Manchester and Greater Manchester. The project has a strong focus on delivering the maximum benefits to people here and leaving a wider legacy in jobs and skills as well as protecting and improving access to the iconic building. 

Councillor Nigel Murphy, lead member for the Our Town Hall project, said: “This is a hugely complex scheme which will protect and improve access to an iconic building and its treasures for current and future generations of Manchester people. 

“Allowing it to sink into decay was not an option. Instead we are taking ambitious steps to ensure this mangificent structure can be a source of enduring pride and pleasure for Mancunians, on whose behalf we are its custodians. 

“There’s been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes but we are now entering the main phase, when much of the activity will be more visible. There’s still a lot of work to go but we look forward to the Town Hall reopening in 2024.” 

An array of work has already taken place in the last two years, since the building closed to the public, to get to this point. 

Once services based in the building had been relocated, thousands of heritage items had to be carefully catalogued and removed, either to be placed in storage or go on display elsewhere. They included 35 statues collectively weighing 10 tonnes. Some of these treasures will go on public display in a new ground floor Visitors Centre when the Town Hall reopens in 2024. 

Once the building was empty experts were able to carry out almost 600 ‘intrusive’ surveys - getting under the skin of the building to refine the project’s understanding of its exact condition and materials.

Early works, including putting up scaffolding and the removal of asbestos, have taken place to help get everything ready for the start of main works. 

A wide range of contractors and sub-contractors have been recruited and appointed to ensure work is ready to start. Although not directly part of the Our Town Hall project, work has also taken place to install the infrastructure to connect the Town Hall with the new Civic Quarter Heat Network, plugging it into a shared heating system which will improve its energy efficency and reduce carbon emissions. 

Social value

One of the Our Town Hall project’s key commitments is to maximise the benefits to the city and its people from every pound spent - spending locally and providing jobs, training and skills opportunities for Mancunians.

Strong progress has been made so far with the project on target to exceed its social value targets: 

  • Some 63% of the work package contracts awarded so far - at least £51m worth of orders - have been with Manchester-based businesses and 84% with businesses based in Greater Manchester. 

  • 15 higher level apprenticeships have been provided through the M-Futures programme.

  • 33 jobs have been created for Manchester residents in a range of roles across the project team.

  • 72 people have been on work placements with the project team. 

  • More than 1,400 students have learned about the project and construction industry through site visits, careers fairs and other opportunities. 

  • 79 sessions have been held with Manchester schools designed to inspire careers in the construction industry and support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

  • 1,800 volunteering hours given by the project team to support organisations including homelessness charity Barnabus and Longsight Youth Club. 

With some 88 of the 149 work packages still to be awarded as work progresses, and a raft of new apprenticeships and other job opportunities being created as the main phase swings into action, these wider social value impacts of the project are set to grow significantly. 

Councillor Carl Ollerhead, Executive Member for Finance, said: “We are absolutely determined to ensure that council spending has positive impacts across the city over and above the direct benefits of the services and projects it is delivering. 

“The Our Town Hall project is an excellent example of this commitment in action.” 

The project remains on budget and on schedule, with the Town Hall due to re-open to the public in 2024. The Council’s Executive will receive a report confirming the formal Notice to Proceed into the main phase of works when it meets on Wednesday 11 March. 

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