Removal of Swindon's Mechanics Institute roof begins

The roof of the Mechanics Institute
Image caption The building also has high asbestos level, lead contamination and a flooded basement

Work has begun to remove part of the roof of a Grade II*-listed building which was in danger of collapsing.

The Mechanics Institute in Swindon is owned by businessman Matthew Singh who wants to develop the property.

Swindon Borough Council seized control of the building in July, after an April deadline to provide a repairs schedule was missed.

Council architect Nick Newland said removal of the roof should be completed by the end of the week.

'Falling down'

Mr Newland described the condition of the roof as "trashed".

He said: "It's very much like a picture you would see from the Blitz.

"We've got about a quarter of the roof off. It's still moving and it's moving downwards. It's technically falling down.

"What we've got to do is get as much load off it as we can over the next couple of days to see if we can stabilise it or whether we will need to take the principle elements of the roof off the building."

He said roads around the building would be opened when it was safe to do so.

There are also high asbestos levels and lead contamination and the basement is flooded.

The council was given a grant of £250,000 by English Heritage to carry out the urgent works.

The Mechanics Institute opened in 1854 as an educational centre for railway workers, but closed in 1986.

It has been owned since 2002 by Mr Singh, whose Forefront Estates will be billed for the repair costs.

Owners of listed buildings have a legal duty to ensure they do not deteriorate.

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