Corn Exchange restoration could restart within weeks

Posted On 03 Oct 2019 at 2:09 pm

Restoration work could restart on the Royal Pavilion estate within weeks if councillors back plans to appoint a new contractor.

Work on the £28 million project stopped in July when the main contractor R Durtnell and Sons – one of Britain’s oldest businesses – ceased trading after more than 400 years.

Next Thursday (10 October) councillors are being asked to approve a way forward for the makeover of the Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre, previously known as the Pavilion Theatre.

A report to Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee said that work could be resumed within two weeks.

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The council said that it was finalising the appointment of an interim contractor to carry out emergency work to the historic buildings.

It said: “The work includes carrying out essential weatherproofing and drainage works to protect the historic grade I and grade II listed buildings.”

Officials will also ask councillors for approval to appoint a new main contractor, having carried out extensive surveys to establish the remaining work needed.

The council said: “The major refurbishment of the Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre is the first phase of a wider project to re-affirm Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate as a key cultural destination by equipping it for a sustainable future.

“The longer-term vision aims to reunite the historic estate created by George IV in the early 19th century to create a centre for heritage, culture and the performing arts which reflects the unique spirit of Brighton.

“It is anticipated that the revitalised Royal Pavilion Estate will support 1,241 FTE (full-time equivalent) jobs and have an economic impact of £68 million.”

Councillor Alan Robins, who chairs the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, said: “We are committed to completing the refurbishment of these unique buildings to protect their long-term future in the cultural heart of the city.

“Our priority is to reduce any future delays, bring the buildings back into use as soon as possible and mitigate the financial impact on both the council and Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival.”

By C Luke

The council said: “Completed restoration work so far includes
• The 200-year old Corn Exchange roof has been strengthened and stripped back to reveal the original widest span timber frame building in the country, formerly used as the Prince Regent’s riding house.
• The unique Corn Exchange windows have been restored with approximately 185 panes of glass replaced in each of the 11 large windows.
• Essential repairs to the 1930s art deco statue of Ceres above the Corn Exchange entrance.

Corn Exchange – Picture by Hassocks5489 / Wiki Commons

“The redevelopment will improve accessibility for visitors, staff and performers, including new disabled toilets, hearing assistance systems and a public lift providing wheelchair access to all levels of the buildings.

“A new ‘creative space’ will be available for community groups and emerging artists to use for workshops, meetings and rehearsals.”

The council added that £19 million of the £29 million total project costs had been raised through grants and donations.

Those providing funding included the National Lottery, Arts Council England, Coast to Capital Local Growth Fund and private trusts.

A number of individuals have made donations and the Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival had also contributed.

Councillor Alan Robins

The council said: “The Build Brighton Dome community appeal has raised over £130,000 from public donations with match funding of every £1 by the Roddick Foundation.

“The additional council funding through borrowing of £5 million would bring the council’s overall contribution to the project to £9.8 million – 32.8 per cent of the total costs.”

Councillor Robins added: “Completion of this project will protect and secure the future of this unique estate in the heart of the city so it continues to be a world-class destination for residents and visitors.”

The council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (10 October). The meeting is scheduled to start at 4pm and should be open to the public.

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