'Significant milestone' as steel beams installed at Wolverhampton Civic Halls

The first steel beams have been installed for the new spectator balconies at Wolverhampton's Civic Halls.

A computer generated image of the finished Civic Hallsand what the public space around it could look like
A computer generated image of the finished Civic Hallsand what the public space around it could look like

Bosses now hope the refurbished halls will reopen to the public in early 2022, after the pandemic delayed the already troubled project.

The scheme to revamp the 82-year-old Civic and Wulfrun halls has hit a series of snags since it was first announced in 2015, with Wolverhampton Council admitting to failings over "inadequate" project management and poor planning.

However work is now moving forwards and contractors Willmott Dixon Interiors have set up a mobile crane inside the historic Grade II-listed halls to manoeuvre heavy steel beams into place.

The work was initially contracted to the Shaylor Group but the company went bust just weeks after the council signed the contract.

Councillors say the improvements to the building are critical to ensuring the halls remain a top entertainment venue for generations to come, generating millions of pounds a year and creating hundreds of jobs in the local economy.

Following the Covid-19 interruption, the revised timetable for the project now means the refurbished Wolves Civic is expected to reopen to the public in early 2022.

Work on the venue was first planned in 2015 at a cost of £10.4m, with a scheduled reopening date of November 2016.

It closed in December 2015, with the project then priced at £14.4m and a new opening date of March 2018 set.

However, work ground to a halt after structural problems with the venue were found to be far worse than first thought.

And the coronavirus pandemic set work back even further this year.

(L:R) Willmott Dixon Interiors Director, Phil Crowther, Cllr Stephen Simkins and Council leader, Cllr Ian Brookfield, signing gone of the new steels at the Civic Halls

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield, said: "After being hit hard by Covid-19, regeneration projects like the Civic Halls are even more important to our city’s economic recovery.

“I am delighted to see the progress being made on the Civic Halls works since Willmott Dixon Interiors returned to site in July following an enforced break due to coronavirus.

“We are creating a truly outstanding venue, in the heart of the city centre, which will bring in millions of pounds to our local economy and safeguard hundreds of jobs.”

Councillor Stephen Simkins, cabinet member for economy, added: "The programme has reached an exciting milestone with the installation of the new steels.

"The new steels sitting alongside the original ones gives us a sense of the sensitive transformation taking place of this iconic venue."

Phil Crowther, director at Willmott Dixon Interiors, added: "It’s fantastic to see construction work stepping up a gear. This is a significant milestone in the restoration of the Civic Halls and is the result of months of hard work on behalf of our people and supply chain partners.

Council Leader Ian Brookfield signs one of the new steels at the Civic Halls

"Delivering a project of this magnitude is always challenging and we have had to adapt to new ways of working to keep everyone safe.

"We know how incredibly important this venue is to Wolverhampton and we can’t wait to hand it back to the city when work is complete."

The revamp will see a second balcony installed for the Civic Hall and a balcony put in at the Wulfrun Hall to provide extra seating.

The height above the stage to the rear of the Civic Hall will also be increased in the hope of attracting bigger shows.

There will also be wider seats, bigger bars, expanded toilet facilities, lift access to the new balconies, better access for disabled visitors, a greater number of accessible viewing points and a new air conditioning system.

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