£1.9 million to replace rotting theatre facade

Tracey McNulty & Jeff Collard and Paul Quanstrom SUS-140716-091653001
Tracey McNulty & Jeff Collard and Paul Quanstrom SUS-140716-091653001

Work to repair the front of Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre will begin next month at a cost of £1.9 million – double the original cost.

Plans to restore the Grade II listed building were originally set to cost less than £1 million but engineers say they have since discovered the facade is literally rotting away and the new spend will cover all the essential repairs, a new frontage and “a theatre that will last for many more years”.

The theatre has been wrapped in health and safety crash scaffold – to catch anything that may fall off the front of the building – and screens for the last four years at a cost of around £150,000 since a lump of concrete fell off the front of the building into the street below.

That prompted a major investigation into what was going on behind the facade at the Congress and it would appear that since it was built in the early 1960s, metal in the re-enforced concrete structure has rusted and blown the concrete off the front of the building.

The restoration work will see the whole of the front elevation, including the huge windows and frames completely stripped away apart from the structural columns and then the front reinstated.

Jeff Collard, senior head of development, at Eastbourne Borough Council said, “We have agreed with English Heritage to double glaze the whole of the front elevation. The thermal efficiency of the building will be improved and it will be a better environment for theatre users.

“The structure supporting the facade will include a cathodic protection system. Work is also extending to the ground floor, the east elevation opposite the Winter Garden and the canopy at roof level. You will see a stunning building at the end of it.”

Members of Eastbourne Borough Council have approved the extra spend. Work is due to start in August and completed early 2015. It will be business as usual at the theatre while the work is carried out.

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