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£8m restoration could reopen Harrogate Royal Hall by 2007

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Harrogate’s Royal Hall could be reopened to the public by the beginning of 2007, following an initial study into the state of the Grade II listed building which revealed that the necessary restoration work would cost £8 million.

Already the Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged to make £6 million available, while Harrogate Borough Council, which owns the building, has committed the remaining £2 million. This would return the building to a state in which it could be made accessible to the public.

The Royal Hall is the sole remaining ‘cure hall’ in England. It was built by Frank Matcham in 1903, incorporating access to the spa’s mineral waters, indoor exercise using the ambulatories and entertainment on stage.

It was closed in November 2002 after part of the ceiling collapsed near the public entrance and major structural problems, caused by the deterioration of the building’s interior concrete structure, had been discovered. An earlier offer from the HLF of money for restoration was lost after the council requested increased funding for the project.

Council leader Mike Gardner welcomed the findings of the study but sounded a note of caution. He said: “We now have a strategy for delivering a partial restoration of the building, which the HLF officers and their advisers believe is encouraging. But this does not commit the HLF to a grant award. The final decision will be taken by the trustees and we won’t know the outcome until after they have considered our revised submission.”

The Royal Hall Restoration Trust, which recently secured the services of the Prince of Wales as its patron, was more optimistic about the results of the survey. Chairman Lilian Mina said: “This is a wonderful day and one we have been waiting for. It is now up to us, the people who so love this building, to complete the work and return the Royal Hall to its original splendour.”

Final proposals for the revised scheme will be put before the council in December and, if approved, will be submitted to the HLF later that month.