Thursday, 10 March 2011

The K&A Canal Trust and the Devizes Wharf Building

The past few years have brought mounting problems for the 200-year old Devizes Wharf Building where the K & A Canal Trust has its headquarters. Repairs and maintenance, for which the Trust is responsible, are already costing some £40,000 a year. Those costs are certain to rise. More important, the state of the building (which is not listed) is such that patching-up is no longer a sensible option.
The Trust is seeking additional funding to tackle the problem. If that cannot be found, Trust Council has decided, with great regret, that we must terminate our lease before the end of this year and look for a base which will not be such a massive drain on our resources.
It should be remembered that the building was derelict before the Trust took it over. The premises were originally leased from Kennet District Council in 1982, following restoration, largely by Trust volunteers. The lease, currently under re-negotiation, is now with the unified Wiltshire Council but the Trust remains responsible for all repairs and maintenance.
Two years ago a loo fell through the floor, and repairs revealed structural problems resulting from water entering from the adjoining outside wall. Nearly £20,000 was required to provide new facilities. A crack in a beam above the shop, supporting the museum, was then discovered and the resulting professional survey required immediate action and temporary supports had to be installed. A 5-yearly electrical inspection reported that the wiring was both non-compliant with present regulations and there were public safety issues. Vital work cost nearly £10K, with further work still required to ensure full compliance.
Then, about a year ago the radiators started failing – and by the start of 2011 about 20 had been replaced. A few weeks ago the boiler cracked and the subsequent inspection showed that not only had it to be replaced, but that the ageing installation required a full replacement and completely changed venting requirements to meet new regulations. But it also showed that much of the present pipework had to be replaced. Estimates are in the region of another £20,000.
Finally, the back wall which partly supports Couch Lane, and is made of the original Bath stone, has deteriorated badly. Complete repointing is required, with initial estimates in the region of £50,000. Serious cracks have also appeared in the front wall, requiring urgent attention.
The Trust Council has taken professional advice and the conclusion is that a very large investment is required to completely refurbish the building – any more patching up will be of little point and continue to be a drain on the Trust’s limited funds.
The Trust will, of course, continue to seek a funder to restore the building but it is felt unlikely that this will be successful in the present climate. Trust Council has therefore, with great regret, decided to prepare to vacate the building by the end of September this year. A working party, led by Trustee David Copley, has already begun to seek alternative accommodation for the activities presently run from the building.

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