Repairs to the roof of the cottage at Chorley’s Astley Hall will cost nearly three times what was first estimated, it has been revealed.
The bill for renovating the structure – to the rear of the main building – has risen after the contractor removed the whiteboards and discovered the extent of work needed to restore it to good condition.
A Chorley Board meeting heard that the roof of the cottage was in a “significant state of disrepair” – meaning that the £131,000 originally allocated to the project would now fall short of what was required. Authorities have approved a new budget of £340,000 to fund the work needed.
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Council leader Alistair Bradley said he was surprised when he was first presented with the “astronomical” figure. The revised number was initially even higher, but decreased, he said, after the board requested a recount exercise to see what could be “subtracted” from the planned work to get better value for money.
Cllr Bradley told members he’s now considering the costs to be “appropriate and acceptable” given the nature of the work required – although he admits that means authorities are spending “more” on the cottage’s roof than on the restoration of the rest of the recently completed landmark building.
The results of the £1.1 million project were revealed to the public last weekend when the hall listed as Class I reopened to the public after being closed for two years. The skyrocketing budget for the cottage roof had been approved just days in advance. Co-chairman Peter Wilson said it was “good luck” that the state of the structure – which amounts to about 20 percent of the entire hall’s roof space – had been revealed before “serious damage occurred”.
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The cottage area will be used for storage and as space for staff once the repairs – which will be funded with a loan – are completed. According to a paper presented at the full board meeting in which the green light was given for the extra spending, an additional £209,000 will be required beyond initial estimates – including a further £88,459 for the repair itself and £64,557 over 33 weeks. “renewal costs” for contractors.
Conservative opposition leader Martin Boardman said that, by his calculations – after a breakdown of the original and additional amounts – the authorities paid “about £150,000 of the actual work, including profits, but it costs us, as a board. , £340,000”.
Cllr Bradley said that some of that amount was “temporary”, because “even at this point, we don’t know exactly how much the work will cost until [contractors] start doing it”.
However, he accepts that the bill is higher than he would like, but hopes that it will now consist of a “maximum cost envelope” that the board can still reduce to a bill that continues to discuss the bill “with a good comb of teeth”.
The meeting heard that authorities had considered the possibility of resubmitting the cottage roof project as a separate work package, but that the option had been discounted due to the “significant costs” that would have been incurred if the current contractor, Bullen Construction, had been terminated and the scheme started from scratch. – with the resulting need for new scaffolding and initial work.
Cllr Boardman also questioned why the associated £107,000 repairs to parts of the cottage were still described as “temporary” when they formed part of the initial tender for the hall renovation.
“[They] are on the list of original quantities – making panels, bricks, wood repairs, windows, siding – you name it, covered. Was the provisional sum of £107,000 over and above the work we had actually provided the contractor and, if so, what did the £107,000 consist of?” Cllr Boardman asked.
Cllr Bradley said the amount represents “an element of work…[which] effectively forms part of the overall initial budget price, but is, really, a second phase to be confirmed when and when”.
He said that figure stands in addition to the £340,000 now set to be spent on the roof and will be out of the maintenance budget for the hall if it is ultimately deemed necessary to spend it.
“Rather than work to be done, it’s work we might want to do now. Because it seems foolish to put the new roof and structure [in place] higher without doing the plinth under too, which is what we always plan to do,” Cllr Bradley explains.
He added that he was surprised that the roof of the cottage was the only unforeseen expense encountered in the wider Astley Hall regeneration project, which Cllr Wilson said had – until recently – been “really on the nose in terms of being on budget”. That’s something Cllr Boardman says is no longer the case.