THE cost of the urgent repairs taking place at the Mechanics Institute will have to be paid by its owner.

Swindon Borough Council confirmed that Mathew Singh, who owns the Grade II* listed building through his firm Forefront Estates, will be sent the bill for the work.

The cost of the emergency works are estimated to be £150,000, while the total needed for the rest of the urgent repairs is around £1.25 million.

Work to remove the roof of the crumbling Mechanics’ Institute was necessary to prevent its imminent collapse, the lead architect on the project has said.

The council gained access to the derelict 150-year-old theatre in July after a deadline for a repairs schedule passed.

Work started last week to remove the roof on the north side on the building as part of emergency works required to prevent the possible collapse of the roof.

Borough architect Nic Newland said several factors, in particular some years ago of the removal of tiles from the roof on the north side and its exposure to weather, have led to the rapid deterioration of the timber.

Mr Newland said: “I think the reason it is happening now is that long ago tiles were taken off the roof and that action alone, whether or not the roof was in trouble, is like someone who needs open heart surgery having their tonsils removed.

“It started the problem – taking the tiles off let the rain in. I would say it was not a considered action in the interests of a historic building.

“We have closed the pedstrian tunnel because we need clearance for the cranes and we have an unknown volume of people coming throught the tunnel.

“The Health and Safety Executive advised that it was sensible and we spoke to the Outlet shopping centre, who said they would rather keep it shut all the time.”

Mr Newland said much of the timber was suffering from wet and dry rot and many of the trusses, which can each support two tons, were crumbling, meaning they could no longer support the roof.

A spokesperson for English Heritage said: “English Heritage has not offered a grant towards dismantling the roof of the north building of the Mechanics Institute. Neither have we endorsed the removal of the whole roof without further investigation being carried out to understand the full extent of deterioration, which would allow decisions to be made in the best interests of public safety and the preservation of the building.

“A £200,000 grant had previously been offered towards other agreed urgent works to make the historic structure safe, secure and protect it from the weather.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said action needed to be taken to resolve the problem quickly when he visited the site last week.

He said: “Now’s the time to strike. We have got to get on with this if we are to save this building. I’m going to be in be in touch with the heritage minister, John Penrose, to keep him fully up to date with the situation and ask for his support with any plan of action that can be devised.

“Time is not on our side, we don’t have the luxury of time. I would urge all those people who have a concern for the building and want to see it preserved for future use to act now.”

Mr Singh has so far not commented on the emergency work on the building, despite several attempts by the Advertiser to contact him.