The Town Hall - Colchester Venues

Scandalous neglect of the maintenance of the Town Hall & Moot Hall 

Colchester Town Hall is a magnificent Grade-1 listed building. The top floor is the Moot Hall, one of the best examples of a Victorian civic hall in the Country. It is very popular for concerts, weddings, formal dinners and meetings of a wide variety of clubs and societies from across the City that need capacity of up to 250 people.

Like many old buildings, the Town Hall need regular structural inspections by experts and a maintenance budget to ensure that it remains in good condition for future generations.

Cllr Paul Dundas, Leader of the Conservative Group (Tiptree Ward) said: “for years the Lib-Dem and Labour Alliance which control the Council has been woefully negligent in their maintenance of most of the Council's buildings and structures.

For instance, the historic Middle Mill Weir, in Colchester’s Castle Park, recently collapsed into the River Colne. According to the Council leaders, significant deterioration to the structure raised concerns about its stability. Nothing was done and it collapsed.

But even worse is the state of the Moot Hall. With no proper inspections of the Town Hall roof, splits in the lead-work went un-noticed, allowing the ingress of water. This eventually caused severe damage to the splendid ceiling of the Moot Hall, making the hall unsafe to use.”

Belatedly, the essential repairs to the Moot Hall roof are scheduled for April with the construction of an external scaffolding tower at front of the Town Hall. Following this, an internal birdcage scaffolding structure will be constructed throughout the Moot Hall to hold up the ceiling. This construction phase is expected to last 5-6 weeks. Currently we have no times-scales or exact costs for the actual repair of this historic ceiling.

The Moot Hall ceiling is a suspended fibrous plaster structure, susceptible to various types of damage, particularly moisture. It is expected that the entire ceiling will have to be glued back to the supporting lath-work.

The costs of the repair work is currently unknown, but best estimates are upwards to £3m, In stark contrast, the saving garnered by the Lib-Dem and Labour alliance, who control the Council, by axing the regular inspections was upwards of £7000. To say this was not a good deal for the Council Tax Payers of the City would be the under-statement of the decade.

And finally the law on listed buildings. Cllr Roger Buston, a local solicitor (Prettygate Ward) explained: “The responsibility for the care and upkeep of a listed building such as the Town Hall lies with the owner, in this case the City Council.  Furthermore, the owner of the listed building can, in some circumstances, be compelled by the Planning Authority (also the City Council), to repair and maintain the listed building and can face criminal prosecution as the defaulting owner if it fails to do so, or if it performs unauthorised alterations. Now there is an interesting conundrum”.

Conservatives pledge to take proper care of the City's community assets on behalf of Council Taxpayers, who otherwise will have to pay astronomic repair bills.