The Tolbooth in the centre of Aberdeen is to be covered in “unsightly” scaffolding for months, after a £1.36 million repair job was given the green light.
Council bosses say the work is needed urgently before the 17th-century building – one of the oldest in the city – deteriorates further.
It was closed at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, along with all other museums and public buildings around the country.
But as the rest of the sites started to reopen their doors, the Tolbooth remained shut.
A large crack had been discovered in an archway on the ground floor, risking the health and safety of visitors.
And as more investigations were carried out, more problems were found: rusting metal embedded in the stonework, pointing that had worn away, and clockfaces needing to be refurbished.
There were fears that the exterior was in such a state that pedestrians on Castle Street below were in danger from falling masonry, slates and leadwork.
Plans for “major roof and parapet works” were scheduled for the 2023/24 budget by councillors in September.
But the full cost and scale of the job were only revealed in papers for this week’s finance committee meeting.
The report says work would begin in March next year and last for 15 months – with the building covered in scaffolding for a significant portion of that time.
The scaffolding, which the report describes as “unsightly”, would encroach on the Castle Street pavement and partially block the neighbouring Lodge Walk lane.
However, report author Alastair Reid says these would be “only short-term issues”.
Repair work would secure museum’s future
Councillors gave the go-ahead to all the necessary works, which would total £1.36 million, on Wednesday.
That cost means a Grade A-listed building which “dominates the east end of Union Street” would be protected for the future, according to bosses.
The repairs are also necessary to allow the site’s popular museum, which tells the grisly story of crime and punishment throughout Aberdeen’s history, to reopen.
The report adds: “Carrying out the work now would be less costly than deferring until some unknown timeline.”
Council co-leader Ian Yuill said: “We are delighted the work is to be carried out on the Tolbooth Museum which is one of the oldest buildings in the city with a rich and varied history.
“It played significant role to play in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and is now Aberdeen’s Museum of Civic History so it is right and appropriate we ensure the building is fit for purpose now and for future generations.”
City centre facelift
Plans to repair the Tolbooth, which is next door to Aberdeen Sheriff Court, come as the council considers the wider question of sprucing up the city centre.
Last year, the local authority committed to spending £100,000 on power-washing Union Street’s pavements and repainting its railings.
A team from the city’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme has also been working to identify owners of historic buildings in the area, so they can give them grants to carry out repairs.
But the main source of funding for the Tolbooth repair, if it goes ahead, will be the council’s Condition and Suitability Programme.
The fund, which has previously put money towards smaller projects at the Maritime Museum and the Linx arena, would contribute £1.2 million to the cost.