Experts carrying out a condition survey of the Grade II* listed Mechanics’ Institute entered the building in HazMat suits this week as restoration plans continue.
The survey is expected to take two weeks to complete and will see teams moving through the building to check for any hazardous materials.
The survey will pave the way for further work to examine the structural condition of the building and estimate restoration costs, which will allow Swindon Borough Council, in partnership with Historic England (HE) and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust (MIT), to weigh up the options for the possible future use of the building.
Since March, the project has been on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Council, HE and MIT are now in a position to resume the project and surveyors Socotec have been recruited to undertake the work.
Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, Culture and Heritage, said: “The condition survey will see people in HazMat suits in and around the derelict Mechanics Institute. This is good news and local residents should not be alarmed.
“This survey will provide a definitive view of the condition of the building and what steps are needed to allow people on site to perform repairs and restoration tasks.
“We will work with our partners every step of the way, but undertaking this process properly will take time. From the start, I, the Council, Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust said that it would take five years to see visible progress, and we are determined to be successful in seeing a restored Mechanics Institute that has a sustainable future.”
The Mechanics Institute was built in 1855 to provide a place for recreation and education for railway workers. It included a theatre and a library, among other amenities.
Since 2003 it has been owned by Forefront Estates Ltd and its eventual renovation is a key priority for the Council and its partners.
Over the past 12 months, the Council has been working closely with partners Historic England, the Mechanics' Institution Trust, Theatres Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund to secure the future of the building.
The Mechanics’ is a priority project for Historic England and is a key feature of the Swindon Heritage Action Zone, which was launched last year.