DORCHESTER’S Municipal Buildings could be mostly closed over the winter and into the spring of next year to allow a £1.8m revamp to go ahead.

The shut-down will allow vital works to be carried out on the ageing roof – together with other improvements towards the council’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Part of the building, the Town Hall, on the first floor may still be available during the period.

In the long-term the site could house the town council staff with a rear extension allowing the move from the existing office premises in nearby North Square, which would then be sold. This could involve a single or two-store extension being built onto the back of the building.

Funding has been set aside for the immediate repair and renovation works with town councillors agreeing, in principal, to a loan of up to £1.4million to complete the re-development project.

The scheme will involve a change to the building’s heating system, switching to a biomass boiler, and with upgrades to insulation and lighting to modern ‘green’ standards.

Talks will continue on whether Dorchester Arts will remain in the building having seen its ambitions to move to the Maltings at Brewery Square finally thwarted by a refusal on its funding bid.

It has been based at the town-council owned building since moving out of the former Grove School site which has since been developed into flats.

A decision on whether the arts group continues to have its office and box office at the Municipal Buildings has been complicated by the pandemic which has put all performance arts in jeopardy, the group’s main source of income, other than grants.

Said town clerk Adrian Stuart: “The works won’t however significantly affect what use the building might be put to in the future; one possible use might be as an arts facility and we have agreed to explore what extra works that might involve with Dorchester Arts.”

Town councillors have been told that the re-roofing of four areas of the building is estimated to cost £820,000 with the town council keen to start this work as soon as possible.

An extension to the building into the car park, assuming it gains planning consent, to provide a new home for town council staff, has been put at around £460,000.

A third element of the re-vamp is the conversion of the ground floor into a multi-use space, providing a new area for food preparation and dressing room space for performers, as well as facilities for disabled staff and users.

Dorchester Town Council has built up reserves of £400,000 towards the cost of the project, but estimates that it may need to loan up to an additional £1.4m to complete the entire project which will be met in part by grants, and from regular income from environmental payments from the Government as well as income from the sale of the offices at 19 North Square with ongoing savings in office running costs.