Wirral Council has closed down a historic town hall for a year to save money and undergo renovations.
Wallasey Town Hall in Seacombe which overlooks the Mersey was closed as part of massive budget cuts passed earlier this year to save an expected £400,000 in energy and heating costs. Two annexes that face onto Brighton Street are also set to be demolished for housing.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said the decision was temporary and the closure was “an opportunity to undertake essential and disruptive works” to the building which have already begun.
The town hall recently had its listing status upgraded to give it increased importance with Wirral’s council leader councillor Paul Stuart calling it a “cultural landmark.” It has been closed to the general public since 2020 but was used until the start of July for the Leverhulme planning inquiry.
The historic venue was built in 1914 and was first used as the Wallasey Town Hall in 1920. It was used as a military hospital during World War I, serving more than 3,500 soldiers and has witnessed several significant events including visits by King George V, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II.
Despite it being closed for a year, Cllr Stuart said, “We are excited by the upgrade in status and are moving forward in finalising a business plan to secure its permanent future. I look forward to the works being completed and the Town Hall being reopened and used to its full potential.”
Earlier this year Wirral Council revealed it was £8m behind on repairs with photos showing water damage inside the building though councillors have committed to keeping the building in public hands and said they are working on plans to reopen it.
Problems with the historic Town Hall included the condition of windows, flooring, roofing, ventilation, heating and electrical wiring and a report said the money would come from £4m of health and safety funds.
A council report in February said, “Every effort must be made to preserve the asset in accordance with its listed status and for which planning permission is required.
“It would be the intention to address those elements of building and services improvements based on the detailed survey reports. Elements such as electrical and mechanical are best undertaken whilst the building is empty due to the disruptive nature of the works.”
A Wirral Council spokesperson said, “As part of budget setting for 2023/24, council made a decision to temporarily stand down Wallasey Town Hall for a period of 12 months. This decision provides an opportunity to undertake essential and disruptive works both to the main building and the two vacant annexe buildings to take place.
“Wallasey Town Hall is a Grade II* listed building and the council has a responsibility to maintain and preserve it in line with that protected status. There are a number of elements of maintenance works that are best carried out while the building is not in use and a programme of works is now in development.
“The demolition of the two annexe office buildings to the north and south of the Town Hall is also set to take place while the main building is closed, with the cleared land then earmarked for housing.”
Image: Ed Barnes