St Helens Council will go to the people to ask what they would like to see happen to the Gamble Building and Earlestown Town Hall.
The internal and external condition of the Gamble has deteriorated over the years, which culminated in the closure of Central Library in 2017 following a ceiling collapse.
The upper floors of the building have remained in use by council staff but are subject to similar condition issues.
Earlestown Town Hall has been closed since 2008, shortly before being granted Grade II listed building status.
On Wednesday, the council’s cabinet will be asked to endorse a phased approach to bringing the iconic buildings back into public use, starting with a detailed community consultation.
This is planned to take place out between October and December 2019.
“As prominent and attractive buildings with historical interest, both Earlestown Town Hall and The Gamble Building should form the community, cultural and heritage focal points for the towns of Newton-le-Willows and St Helens,” a cabinet report says.
“Neither currently achieve their economic or social value potential.
“Work needs to be undertaken to identify the potential options to bring each of these important under-utilised assets back into full use.”
The report says the community consultation is important as it will ensure the public can give their views on what they would like to see the buildings used for and to identify what skills, assets and resources can be drawn from the community or third parties to assist with these projects.
The Labour-controlled council has placed no restrictions or pre-requisites on how the buildings will be used, other than committing that the Gamble and Earlestown Town Hall will be for public use in some form.
The results of the consultations, the report says, will tie in to the council’s wider regeneration proposals.
“It is also important that we consult the community on our plans to regenerate our town and local centres, and proposals for this are being developed,” the report says.
“The aim will be to bring together the specific consultation on The Gamble and Earlestown Town Hall with the broader town and local centres regeneration proposals to allow cabinet to consider the whole ambitious programme of place-shaping activity through regeneration.
“The consultation will also incorporate feedback from participants on libraries and other heritage or cultural centres.”
The current proposals for bringing The Gamble and Earlestown Town Hall back into use will be split into six phases.
The first phase will see essential remedial enabling works take place at both buildings where possible as part of business as usual activity, followed by the public consultation.
The third phase involves detailed structural surveys, which have already been undertaken, followed by the delivery of an external works programme.
The final two phases will involve the completion of internal works surveys followed by the delivery of an internal works programme.
No estimates for the project are provided in the report, although previous council leader Derek Long said in March that bringing The Gamble back into public use would be a “multi-million pound” project.
However, cabinet will be asked to approve £250,000 from the council’s capital receipts, which will allow for the design, enabling and commissioning works, plus the community consultation exercise described above to be undertaken for both The Gamble building and Earlestown Town Hall.
“Both the internal and external works for each of the buildings will require significant investment to ensure they are both preserved for public usage,” the report says.
“Budgets cannot be determined until the external surveys have been completed and analysed, the community consultation is undertaken and considered and detailed designs are developed and costed.”
The report says more detailed costs will be presented in future reports once the detailed work to develop each scheme has been undertaken.