Council's estimated £6.8m Kettering library roof project cost breakdown revealed

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The council says it has looked at the ‘worst-case scenario’

A cost estimate breakdown for the £6.8m project to repair Kettering’s leaky library roof has been revealed.

The Sheep Street site, which will be 120-years-old this year, has been closed since October after heavy rainfall damaged its ceiling, with warnings that a potential two-year closure loomed. Library services have since temporarily moved to the upper floors of the adjacent Cornerstone complex.

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North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) has agreed a budget of £6.807m to repair the Collyweston slate roof, although the eye-watering amount has been questioned by a number of residents. Kettering author and historian Tony Smith penned a letter to the Northants Telegraph asking ‘what planet NNC are living on’.

Cllr Helen Howell in the library where the ceiling fell in - and the bins collecting waterCllr Helen Howell in the library where the ceiling fell in - and the bins collecting water
Cllr Helen Howell in the library where the ceiling fell in - and the bins collecting water

Using Freedom of Information Act laws this newspaper asked NNC to provide a breakdown in cost estimates for the project so our readers could see how much is being spent on each aspect of it. The council has now released the only estimate of ‘worst-case scenario’ costs they currently have, taken from a high level cost estimate report procured from GSS Architecture.

They are:

Construction costs, including existing structure repairs such as timbers and felt roofs and cleaning, scaffolding, tent, Collyweston stone slating: £4.885m (of which scaffolding and tent is £2.5m and slate is £0.9m)

Professional fees, including full design and project management: £0.736m

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Scaffolding at the site's entranceScaffolding at the site's entrance
Scaffolding at the site's entrance

Development costs, including surveys, specialist reports, planning fees and building regulations: £0.080m

Client/project risk (contingency) at 20 per cent: £1.101m

NNC said full costs can only be confirmed after the full roof replacement design is complete and contractors have been procured. The contingency budget has been built into the cost in case other required works are found when the roof is stripped back.

Cllr Anne Lee (Lab, Windmill) said: “No-one disputes that it is a huge amount of money. I am very glad that the library will be repaired.

"However, the costs would have been less if repairs had been made at an earlier stage under the canopy, as planned, which would have allowed the library to remain open.

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"The audit and governance committee will scrutinise the expenditure in due course, to make sure that the tendering process is conducted properly and that the project is managed as well as possible.”

The library roof is in poor condition and is suffering from several leaks, with the roof in many areas being almost 120-years-old. There are several slipped slates and a number of intermediary repairs that have been conducted over the years have now failed.

Problems with the library roof had been highlighted in a 2019 report, giving it an estimate ten-year life span. 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.

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The £6.8m cost 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 (Con, Raunds), deputy leader of NNC and executive member for sport, leisure, culture and tourism, previously 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.”

A spokesman for NNC declined to comment further.