THE CONDITION of one of Swindon’s most iconic structures is so bad the roof could collapse.

The Mechanics’ Institute, which is grade-II* listed, is privately owned but Swindon Council have been forced to step in and have already spent £250,000 to save it as the conditions of building had deteriorated to such a great extent.

Swindon Council was granted the legal right to temporarily take over the building in July to carry out urgent works after failing to receive sufficient reassurances from the owner, Forefront Estates, that it would do the work within a reasonable time and to the required standard.

The council is currently assessing what needs to be done to make the Emlyn Square building wind and weathertight.

It will then seek to recover the cost from the owner.

Although investigations are not yet complete, it is already clear that the roof structure over the northern section is in very poor condition and requires urgent attention to ensure that it doesn’t collapse.

Councillor Garry Perkins, deputy leader the council, said: “What we have found is very depressing and it’s obvious, even at this stage, that it’s going to take much more money than we have earmarked to stabilise the structure.

“We are now having urgent meetings with various agencies, including English Heritage, about the next steps.”

A spokesman for the council said that much of the interior has been significantly damaged, and there are high levels of contamination from asbestos and lead.

Large areas of the interior are too dangerous for workers to access, and the basement is flooded.

The owners of listed buildings have a legal duty to ensure they do not deteriorate.

Forefront Estates, which has owned the building since 2002, has been carrying out building work for a number of years on the south side of the building after it was granted permission to create apartments, offices and a café.

The urgent works involve the northern half of the building.

The council secured a grant of £250,000 from English Heritage to carry out the urgent works.

The Mechanics’ Institute opened in 1854 as an educational centre for railway workers, but was closed and disposed of by British Rail in 1986.

After securing grade-II* listed status in 1999, it was placed on English Heritage’s list of historic buildings that are at risk.

The Adver tried to contact Mathew Singh, who owns the building, but he was unavailable for comment.