Work has resumed to assess the structural condition of the remarkable Mechanics’ Institute building in Swindon.

The Grade ll*-listed structure has been derelict since the 1980s and the subject of a long-running controversy between owner Forefront Estates and the council.

In April, the council approved a proposal to prepare a compulsory purchase order (CPO) should it be needed. The building is a top priority on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register and is also on the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Register.

Following a pause caused by lockdown, a survey is now under way by Socotec to check for hazardous materials which will pave the way for further work to examine the structural condition of the building and estimate restoration costs.

The council, Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust will then consider options.

Cllr Dale Heenan, cabinet member for the town centre, culture and heritage, said: “This survey will provide a definitive view of the condition of the building and what steps are needed to allow people on site to perform repairs and restoration tasks.

“We will work with our partners every step of the way but undertaking this process properly will take time.

“From the start, I, the council, Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust said that it would take five years to see visible progress, and we are determined to be successful in seeing a restored Mechanics’ Institute that has a sustainable future.”

The Mechanics’ Institute was built in 1855 as somewhere for recreation and education for railway workers. It included a theatre and a library. The Mechanics’ Institution Trust has proposals for a mix of uses including offices, 200-seat semi-circular conference venue, 140-seat cinema, shops, and a cafe and 300-seat theatre.

Image: Mika38240, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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