Kettering Library roof repairs could cost £6.8m as two-year closure looms
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The ‘eye-watering’ amount of money that would be needed to repair Kettering Library’s Collyweston slate roof has been revealed by North Northants Council (NNC) as around £6.8m.
Staff and customers of the Grade II listed building had to be moved out after a large chunk of ceiling masonry fell near shelves following a torrential downpour.
Now a report prepared by NNC officers that outlines the true costs of the roof repair project has been published that will be discussed by NNC executive members next week.
The £6.8m estimate overshadows the eventual £4.5m cost of the yet-to-open Cornerstone extension to the Alfred East Art Gallery and adjoining library.
Cllr Helen Howell, deputy leader of NNC and executive member for sport, leisure, culture and tourism, said: “It is estimated at around £6.807m to complete the project that includes the tenting or canopy, the scaffolding, the refitting of the roof – we’re looking at Collyweston stone that needs to be mortared and bedded in. It’s not like tacking slates on, it’s building a ‘wall’ on top of this building.
“We have built into it a contingency because once we start stripping back the roof there may well be some other works we encounter. We have looked at the worst case scenario.”
Problems with the library roof had been highlighted in a 2019 report giving it an estimate ten-year life span, but the £3m grant money from SEMLEP, shored-up with local taxpayers cash was never destined for the roof.
The £4.5m Cornerstone complex including the extension to the Alfred East Art Gallery and Kettering Library was to provide a cafe, meeting rooms, a Changing Spaces accessible toilet, and improved gallery security and storage – all remain closed to the public.
To prevent further water damage to the roof, a specialist tenting canopy will need to be installed using scaffolding to protect the heritage building – a process that could take up to eight months.
The existing roof tiles are then assessed and it is hoped that half may be reused. An order for the Collyweston slate, that is mined in the north of the county, will then be placed. Such is the rarity of the material it could take up to a year to get the slate on site. It then needs to be mortared onto the roof.
Cllr Howell said: “We cannot rush this, we cannot just put a tent up and get the roof done as soon as possible. We’ve gone out to all of the specialists. We’ve got to make this right for future generations. We’ve got to make sure this wonderful building is secured for everyone’s future. Watch this space – it could be quite a while, but we will get there.”
Meanwhile, rain continues to leak through the crumbling broken tiles into part of the brand new extension – bins and buckets collecting the flood – at the join between the old walls and new build.
As well as overflowing gutters and broken tiles, the building’s large Virginia Creeper and ivy have been causing further damage to the fabric of the building.
It is hoped that no more complications are found with the roof structure but a 20 per cent contingency has been built in to the £6.8m estimate.
Cllr Howell said: “Once we manage to get the canopy up it is our intention is to open the library facility, obviously that’s subject to health and safety. That is paramount to us. At no point do we want to keep this library shut – we want to get it open. If we are able to get it open while the re-roofing project is going ahead we most definitely will and that goes for the Alfred East Art Gallery and the rest of the building.
"It’s in nobody’s interest to keep it closed. We are really, really passionate about this building, it’s part of our heritage, it’s part of our culture and we will make this a success. We are custodians of this building and we have to get it right.
“While the library has, unfortunately, had to temporarily close due to damage to the ceiling, officers are continuing to work on alternative options to ensure that we are able to provide a library provision in the town throughout the works and we will provide updates soon."
Gallery staff have been working in the ‘safe, watertight section of the buildings’ to manage and care for the art gallery collection, planning future exhibitions and preparing for when Cornerstone is watertight and can be reopened.
The project to replace the roof will be discussed at next week’s meeting of North Northamptonshire Council’s executive on Thursday, November 16 at 10am in the Corby Cube. All papers are now available online and the meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube.