Wiltshire

Swindon council may be left with Mechanics Institute repairs

Mechanics Institute interior
Image caption The council seized control of the privately owned building in July

Emergency repairs to a Grade II* listed building in Swindon could cost as much as £400,000 as the row over who should pay to restore the property continues.

The Mechanics Institute in Swindon is owned by businessman Matthew Singh who wants to develop it, but the council have not been able to trace him.

Swindon Borough Council took control of the building in July, after a deadline for repairs was missed.

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

Daniel Rose, from the Mechanics' Institution Trust, said: "If the council had acted earlier, the situation would be that the level of money that it's costing to do these urgent works would have been significantly less.

'Bad state'

"And the historic fabric of the building wouldn't be in such a bad state.

"They have a legal duty to make sure that heritage buildings are cared for and looked after and don't fall into disrepair."

Councillor Gary Perkins, from Swindon Borough Council, said: "Some urgent works were carried out and Mr Singh did cover the cost of some of those at that stage.

"It's only since we've had access, which has been very recently, that we've been really able to assess the work that needs to be carried out on this building."

The council seized control of the privately-owned building after a row over restoration. It was granted the legal right to carry out urgent works.

The bill currently stands at £393,276.16 and is expected to rise.

It said it will try to recover the cost from the owner, Forefront Estates.

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