This incredible picture, from scaffolder Shane Webb, shows for the first time the extent of the maze of poles and planks needed to carry out essential repairs on Dorchester’s Municipal Buildings roofs.

The complex job, which also features a framework inside the building, is taking local firm South Western Scaffolding almost three weeks to complete.

It will allow contractors, Hammonds, to start repairing the roofs on the building, parts of which date to 1847.

The scaffolding structure marks the first phase of extensive repairs and improvements which should see the building re-opened by the autumn, under the management of Dorchester Arts who will run it day to day.

Dorchester Town Council say the works, and change of the building’s management, should allow for a wider variety of functions and better use to be made of the building.

The complex includes the Corn Exchange, Town Hall, Council Chamber, Magistrates’ Room and various other meeting and function spaces, including a commercial kitchen.

If planning consent is approved by Dorset Council the re-vamp will also see new shared offices built for the town council and Dorchester Arts on the back of the building, with staff moving there from their nearby offices in North Square. That building will then be sold for housing.

Plans also include a biomass boiler to not only provide energy for the Municipal Buildings, but potentially also for some neighbouring buildings including the County Museum, now nearing the end of its own revamp, and the adjacent church.

In all the total cost of the Municipal Buildings works will nudge £2million although the town councillors has said that the ambitious project should not result in an increase in the town share of next year’s council tax and, in time, will produce costs savings.

A re-modelling of the front of the building is still being discussed along with upgrades to insulation and lighting, solar panels and an improved sound system and new seating. The building will also be fitted with a new lift, replacing the temperamental old one which was becoming expensive to maintain.

Deputy town clerk Steve Newman told a town council policy committee meeting on Monday evening that the council now has a nervous wait to find out exactly what has been happening to the roofs underneath the slates.

He said that, providing nothing too disastrous was discovered, it was expected the re-roofing should be completed by the end of March and, if everything else went well, the building could be re-opened by late summer or early autumn.