The multi-million pound redevelopment of Rochdale Town Hall is progressing fast, with contractors ready to move onto the site within weeks.
The council and Rochdale Development Agency are in the final stages of appointing a contractor to take forward the main building work, with the grade I listed masterpiece set to close at the end of the year ahead of work starting in January 2021.
The scheme, supported by an £8.9 million grant from the national lottery heritage fund, will see the famous building's historic rooms and features restored, as well as the creation of brand new community facilities in rooms previously off limits to the public.
A number of car parking spaces will need to be removed to enable the work to progress
Most of the parking spaces around the town hall will need to be removed to make way for the site compound and facilitate the building's transformation, with visitors asked to park in one of the other hundreds of spaces available in the area.
Across Rochdale town centre, there are more than 1,000 parking spaces, including over 700 in the Rochdale Exchange shopping centre nearby.
Visitors can still enjoy three hours' free parking in one of the 870 spaces available on council car parks or on street spaces in Rochdale town centre.
Visitors will still have access to more than 700 parking spaces in Rochdale town centre
Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for a thriving economy, said: "To see our famous town hall surrounded by construction apparatus will be strange, but it will also be a really exciting visible reminder that this momentous project will soon be underway."
The taxi rank on Packer Street will remain in place for the time being, as will a small number of spaces (32, including 12 disabled) in front of the town hall.
In the longer term, Town Hall Square will be given a major facelift, with plans to create a beautiful public square. The plans, which involve extensive repaving and the installation of plants, trees and street furniture, are being led by landscape architects, Gillespies. The company, which works across the globe, recently worked on the brand new Piece Hall in Halifax and created a roof garden at the google headquarters in London.
In the longer term, the area around the town hall will be turned into a stunning public square
Councillor Blundell added: "We will need to make some big changes to the car park to enable work to get underway, but our visitors will still have a huge number of parking options available throughout Rochdale town centre, with a large number of these bays being council owned, so people can benefit from three hours' free parking every day.
"In the longer term, this car park will be replaced by something so much better. It will be a stunning public square where people can come and relax, as well as enjoying major events, like the Feel Good festival. Sandwiched between our grade I listed town hall, our grade I listed cenotaph and the old post office, this square will really frame these wonderful buildings, which are currently obscured by a sea of cars."
The changes to the car park are expected to come into effect in early January 2021.