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Courtyard Struggle To Stay Open With Lack Of Support From Herefordshire Council Over Essential Building Works

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The Courtyard is fighting to keep its doors open due to vital and costly structural works that need to be undertaken urgently.

During The Courtyard’s major Capital Expansion project, which was partly funded by Arts Council England, the community hub discovered that the building needed urgent repair. Extensive surveys during this time revealed multiple issues with the glazing that makes up the external walls of the building (known as curtain walling). The surveys carried out in 2019, 2020 and 2022 all recommended that the curtain walling should be replaced, but the estimated cost of full replacement would be over £600,000.

The Courtyard approached Herefordshire Council, the owners of the building, with the news of the survey results. The Courtyard, a registered charity, was met with a firm response from Council Officers that they are not liable for the repairs in any way and that the costs were the sole responsibility of The Courtyard.

Further research uncovered that when the curtain walling was installed in 1998, it was only designed to last for 25 years. September 2023 marks 25 years since The Courtyard opened, therefore, immediate action needed to be taken and The Courtyard had no option but to begin structural repairs and delay the full replacement of the curtain walling.

The Rt. Hon. Jesse Norman inspects the curtain walling issues at The Courtyard

The Courtyard took legal advice on the question of liability for the repairs. From that advice and the building survey that has been carried out, it appeared that the problems with The Courtyard are so fundamental that it should be the Council, as owner and landlord of the premises, which is responsible for the cost of remedying what appear to be fundamental defects in the design and construction of the curtain walling.

Hereford and South Herefordshire MP, Jesse Norman expressed his concern at the prospect of The Courtyard facing these costly works, knowing that the charity would be unable to afford to repair or replace the entire curtain walling itself.

“The Courtyard is an essential asset both for the city and the county of Herefordshire.” Said Jesse Norman, “I am no expert in this area, but anyone can see that the footings of the curtain walls were never installed properly in the first place.”

As an independent charity, who had just managed to financially survive the coronavirus pandemic, The Courtyard appealed to Herefordshire Council, as the owners of the building, for support on numerous occasions. However, despite these attempts Herefordshire Council Officers refused to negotiate and matters have reached an impasse.

The Courtyard has since been forced to dip into its scarce reserves and commission emergency interim structural repairs, which began in January. The estimated cost of this is currently around £150,000.

“We hope that the action we have taken will extend the life of this part of the building by at least 10 years, until the curtain walling can ultimately be replaced.” Says Chair of The Courtyard Board, Bruce Freeman, “We remain deeply saddened that our local Council, the owner of the building, which was responsible for signing off the original build in 1998, has shown so little sign of assisting us and helping us preserve, not only a valued cultural hub for Herefordshire, and its second most visited building, but also an Arts Centre that generates around £15 million per year for the local economy. It is the Board’s sincere hope that a more understanding and positive relationship can be established when the new administration is elected in May.”

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