The Almonry Development project has been in discussion for approximately 5 years. The Council must ensure this beautifully historic building remains an asset to the town for many years to come. All discussion and documentation around the decision making process for this project can be found on the Finance and General Purposes Committee or Full Council pages of the website. Please direct any questions on the Almonry Project to email@example.com.
The Almonry Development Project
Update October 2022
There have been many items of snagging completed over the past few months and contracted works are, finally, almost complete. The Yorkstone has been repointed with traditional lime mortar and the railings are mostly installed. The platform lift is in place and has been utilised to assist less able-bodied members of the public into the wonderful “Old Parlour” reception area. In this area can be found a Town Council and Rother District Council Officer; although currently, due to staff shortage issues, there is no RDC Customer Service Representative. The Chamber and Old Hall / Buttery are available for hire and some groups have already returned to the improved facility. We also welcome the Citizens Advice Bureaux to the Chamber on a Wednesday morning from 2nd November.
Council set up two Working Groups: one for Almonry Use to ensure that the aims of the Council are met, to:
- respect and enhance the heritage of the building and its environs
- meet the current and future requirements of the Council and the community
- cover the running and maintenance costs of the building
and the other to agree for recommendation to the External Relations & Town Development Committee the set up of a Tourist Information Point.
A short Almonry film has been produced and several pictures and information slides have been erected to allow visitors to learn more about this publicly owned Grade 2* Listed building.
Two first-floor offices will be available shortly for rent and Council welcomes enquiries to the Office for these or the hire of the meeting spaces.
The front garden is looking wonderful – with great thanks to the Beautiful Battle volunteers – and it has been delightful to see so many visitors sat on the benches or grass over the summer period.
Work has started on the rear gardens and these will be open as soon as possible.
As with many historic buildings, during the extensive refurbishment works, additional repairs have been identified. One major item identified is the chimney to the south area which is not supported. The Architect has suggested that this would have resulted from the removal of the south wing some years ago. Surveys have been completed and quotes for the dismantling work awaited. It is anticipated that this may not be completed, partly due to the anticipated inclement weather, until spring 2023. Council hope to obtain grant funds for this essential work.
Whilst the contracted works have not exceeded the original anticipated costs, the total expenditure has required that some additional works have been paid from Ear Marked Reserves. Council continues to monitor the situation. The spreadsheet of expenditure is attached below.
Update April 2022
Officers were able to return to the Almonry in mid-November in time to welcome the Lord Lieutenant on 11th November for a small Remembrance reception.
Visitors have been most impressed with the new open reception area which allows the feature fireplace and staircase to be displayed and will be used as a Tourist Information Point for visitors.
Council is now fully utilising the new Chamber room for its meetings.
Residents will have seen from the Minutes of Full Council and Finance & General Purposes Committee (F&GP) meetings that there have been several delays to the project. Some were due to the lack of availability of materials and staff issues caused through the continuing Pandemic. It is frustrating that the Yorkstone, insisted on by the Conservation Officer, has proved particularly difficult to obtain. This means that the access and platform lift to assist less mobile visitors remains outstanding.
Due to a contractual matter, the Contractor instigated a Suspension of Works in late January 2022. Following some discussion and legal advice, a “without prejudice” payment of £88,835.13 has been made to allow works to be restarted, including outstanding snagging work, by 3rd May 2022. The Contractor has agreed to reimburse any overpayment at the completion of the project.
To allow for the whole building to be fully utilised, the installation of the three-phase electricity was booked for the beginning of the year. However, there have been challenges with coordination of the various agencies; further frustrated by the consequences of Storm Eunice. Final installation is expected shortly.
The Almonry Use and Tourist Information Point Working Groups continue to work to provide a multi-use building to encourage residents and visitors into this historic, publicly owned building. Work on the Strategic Plan continues and we hope to publish this in the near future.
We are delighted that, following the change in Government guidance on Covid restrictions, a Rother District Council Customer Service Officer has returned to the Almonry Mondays to Wednesdays. A previous tenant has also returned to a first-floor office. Other offices will be marketed for occupation as soon as works are completed.
Following a lengthy wait, HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed the Option to Tax on the Almonry building. This allows the Council to reclaim the VAT element of the Almonry project. In return, VAT is now applied to all room hire charges and rents for the building. To encourage hirers back to the Almonry, the Council will absorb this into existing rates for room hire for the current financial year.
During the tendered works, additional works have been identified. Some have been completed; including more extensive roofing repairs. There have also been adjustments resulting in a reduction of works identified as unnecessary. The Council’s Quantity Surveyor and Architect / Project Manager continue to carefully monitor expenditure against the original tender and many adjustments discovered during the works. Council has agreed to use funds from Ear Marked Reserves for Almonry repairs (325) and Almonry Public Works Loan Board repayment (326) for additional roof repairs and the additional power supply.
At every F&GP Committee meeting a budget report is presented which clearly shows the expenditure on this project – 110 4800. A list of each income and expenditure is presented to Full Council every month. These documents are included with the Minutes of the meeting.
A significant additional item that has been identified is the reinforcement of a chimney to the old Town Clerk’s Office. This work has not yet been costed, but will clearly be outside of the original tender value. Council hopes to obtain external funding towards the cost of this work.
Update September 2021
Whilst works are progressing well, there have been some delays and the Almonry is now likely to be available for Officers in mid-October.
It is highlighted that the current climate is causing a general delay in provision of supplies and an increase in cost of materials. These will have an unavoidable impact on the project.
The revision to electric heating has resulted in an increase in mains power supply which is reliant on UK Power Networks availability. However, it has been ascertained that Officers can work safely in a reduced area of the Almonry until this supply is installed.
Additional work to the roof has been identified and it is indicated that this is due to the delays in commencement of work and the resultant deterioration of poor quality roof tiles.
Following amendments to the project, the Listed Building Consent requires Yorkstone to be incorporated into the new ramp access. To attempt to mitigate costs, it has been agreed to order a product that will not be available until after the handover of the Almonry in mid-October. To ensure safety, the double gates will only be open on request until the access is fully completed and the platform lift is installed.
The current anticipated increase in final account is £51,805.84, which includes £10k contingency and £10k for delayed works. A total provisional cost is now £593,266.68.
£500,000 of the £600,000 agreed Public Works Loan Board loan has been drawn down and Council agreed unanimously that the additional works identified should be incorporated into the project, taking the revised additional cost from Ear Marked Reserves.
Council is conscious of the inconvenience caused by the footpath closure during the works and confirm that East Sussex County Council are content with the measures put in place during the footpath closure. The Contractors are working to remove the hoarding and open the footpath as soon as practicable.
A new Almonry Working Group has been formed to produce a Strategic Plan for the use of the Almonry. To develop a maintenance plan that ensures the continued use of the building in years to come, this will incorporate:
- the need to respect and enhance the heritage of the building and its environs;
- the need to meet the current and future requirements of the Council and the community;
- the need to cover the running costs of the building;
- the need to review the use of the building and its environs on a regular basis.
Update July 2021
To enable the driveway works to be carried out The Almonry Gardens have closed. The new access will be less of a gradient and have an improved surface. Council apologises for any inconvenience and looks forward to welcoming visitors back in September.
Update June 2021
After years of planning the renovations at the Almonry are finally taking shape. The Almonry building has been in much need of repairs for some time and this will ensure that the beautiful historic building remains an asset to the town for many years to come. The project will bring the building up to current Health & Safety standards and make sure the building is both safe and accessible for staff, residents and visitors.
We acknowledge that the closure of the footpath outside the Almonry is causing an inconvenience for pedestrians and assure you that the contractors are working hard on the external repairs to finish them as soon as possible, which will enable them to reopen the footpath.
The building work will be complete in September and the Town Council team will be back to welcoming visitors to the office. Once the work has been completed it will open up new opportunities for the Council and provide more attractive revenue streams with office and event space to hire.
The cost of the renovations will be covered by a grant of £7000 from Rother District Council’s Community Grant Fund, Council Ear Marked Reserves and a Public Works Loan Board loan of up to £600,000; only funds required will be drawn down. At present we have only drawn down £500,000 with an interest rate of 2.35%. This will be paid back annually at a rate of £17,052.26 per annum for a period of 50 years.
Once the work has been completed we look forward to holding an official opening ceremony, and will be delighted to welcome residents and visitors to view the restoration work to this beautiful Grade II listed building.
Update April 2021
The repair and maintenance work taking place at The Almonry is now underway.
The Almonry building has been in much need of repairs for some time and this will ensure that this beautiful historic building remains an asset to the town for many years to come. The project will bring the building up to current Health & Safety standards and make sure the building is accessible for staff, residents and visitors.
Once the work has been completed it will also open up new opportunities for Battle Town Council to offer a Tourist Information service and provide new revenue streams with office and event space to hire.
The work will take approximately 16 to 20 weeks to complete. You can view the full plans for the project on the PDF’s below.
We look forward to keeping all our residents up to date with the project over the coming weeks.
As many residents will already be aware, the beautiful historic Almonry building, which serves as an incredible asset to the town, is in desperate need of repair. Following public consultation which closed on 19th June, Council agreed that the building needs to be brought up to current health & safety standards, made accessible to all residents and visitors and upgraded to comply with the Equalities Act 2010 regarding employees with physical disabilities. Council can now confirm that a statement of action has now been agreed.
Following a meeting of the Almonry Development Working Group with the Quantity Surveyor to interrogate the detail, three recommendations were presented and subsequently agreed at the latest Full Council meeting, held on Tuesday 20th October:
- that Council accepts the tender of £573,193.53 from Vulcan Ellis to undertake those works specified in the tender document in respect of:
- internal and external repairs and renovations to the fabric of the building. This will include: roof; fascia tiles and masonry; windows; ceilings; woodwork such as panelling, doors and staircase;
- improvements to services. Including electrical rewire and provision of electric heating supplied by renewable power, in accordance with the Council’s commitment to the Climate Emergency;
- the provision of disabled access via a reduced and resurfaced slope to a platform lift at the rear of the existing porch. This will allow access by all at the same location;
- the provision of accessible toilet facilities within the building. There is currently a multi-step to the only ground floor facility. This will be reduced;
- the upgrading of toilet and kitchen facilities. The existing facilities are not to an appropriate standard for use by hirers, tenants or staff;
- the provision of a Tourist Information Point (TIP) within a reception area for Town and Rother District Council Officers. The Council has received many requests, and has researched other sites, for a visitors to obtain information. This has been an ongoing objective but is made more pertinent in these current times to encourage a return to Battle businesses. Council staff and volunteers will be trained to undertake this service;
- that Council applies to the Public Works Loan Board for a loan facility of £600,000 to cover the cost of these works on the understanding that applications will also be made to the Covid-19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund (max £25,000) towards repairs, and to the Rother District Council Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy(CIL) Fund towards the development of wheelchair access and toilet facilities First call to be on these funds if applications are successful. Only funds not raised by grants or Ear Marked Reserves will be drawn down from the loan. Interest payments are only applied to drawn down funds, not the whole amount;
- that Council applies for all necessary additional planning and other permissions, the cost of these and other professional fees associated with overseeing the works, approximately £3,500, to be covered by the existing Almonry Repairs Ear Marked Reserve fund. This will be offset by a generous offer by Stephen Gray to make the necessary applications for the accessible toilet facility, platform lift and the re-grading and finishing of the ramp pro-bono.
Information relating to the project, including previous meeting documents, can be found at battletowncouncil.gov.uk. Alternatively please contact
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01424 772210.
Update to Almonry Project March 2021
A provisional date for the repairs and maintenance to The Almonry has been agreed with contractors for Monday 26thApril 2021. The work should take approximately16 to 20 weeks to complete. During this period Council staff will be based at The Old Court House, North Trade Road, Battle.
A grant of £7000 has been received from Rother District Council’s Community Grant Fund. The Town Council was also offered a Grant from Historic England’s COVID–19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund, however there were strict conditions that required the emergency work to start immediately and be completed as a separate phase to the remaining work. The Town Council and its chosen contractors were unable to meet these conditions as the resulting substantial increase in costs would negate the grant award. For this reason, regrettably the Town Council were unable to accept the grant.
The Town Council is awaiting confirmation of approval from the Public Works Loan Board for a loan facility of £600,000 to cover the cost of these work, although only funds required will be drawn down.
Almonry update – January 2021
Battle Town Council has been working on the Almonry project for over 4 years, with plans to repair and improve the Grade II* Listed Almonry Building. The project will ensure the heritage building delivers an efficient and safe working environment and fulfils the Council’s statutory and moral obligations to make it accessible to all.
The improvements to the Almonry building will also support the town’s post-COVID-19 recovery, with a focus on developing the town’s tourism offering and supporting local enterprise.
In 2020, Battle Town Council undertook a consultation process with residents to understand how they would like the Town Council to take the Almonry project forward. Although the response rate of the consultation was disappointing, Council took the view that residents trusted in their elected Members to make the best decision for this heritage building. It was also felt that the responses provided evidence that the Council must find a way to bring the Almonry up to an acceptable standard and keep it as a Council office.
After many years of previous Councils not undertaking significant maintenance and repairs, the Council is keen for the works to commence as soon as possible to protect the historic building from further deterioration.
Following the strict tender process, the preferred contractor has been selected at a cost of £573,193.53. Council has always acknowledged that this work will require appropriate professionals to project manage and ensure the work to the Town’s heritage building, The Almonry, is carried out to the highest standard and in line with the regulations surrounding listed buildings. At this week’s meeting, Council were presented with the costs to complete this project at £42,679.76. The project cannot move forward without the services of an Architect, Quantity Surveyor and other relevant specialists. By a majority vote, the motion to instruct JD Clarke and Blade Consulting to undertake these crucial tasks was agreed.
The Council has submitted applications to Historic England’s COVID–19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund and Rother District Council’s Community Grant Fund to raise funds towards urgent repairs and a discrete project to provide full access for those with disabilities, which both contribute to the overall improvements to the building. Council’s Ear Marked Reserves will provide match funding for the accessibility items requested from the Community Grant. An application will shortly be made to the Public Works Loan Board with a plan for works to commence in Spring 2021.
Almonry update – June 2020
Draft Strategic Plans are now available. These will remain in draft until Council has considered action at its meeting on 30th June 2020.
As many Battle residents are aware one of the town’s oldest heritage buildings, The Almonry, is in desperate need of repair. The building needs to be brought up to current health & safety standards, made accessible to all residents and visitors and upgraded to comply with the Equalities Act 2010 regarding employees with physical disabilities. Whilst the unprecedented recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic keep us within our homes for the time being, now could be a good time to reflect on other local matters.
There are three key aspects to Battle Town Council’s vision for The Almonry building:
Providing excellent services to residents
Flexible, fully accessible space for increased Town & District Council activities, community groups and the public.
Supporting town development and economic growth
A central and welcoming hub, providing help and information for our community and for tourists.
Preserving our heritage
An expertly restored and ‘reinstated’ building with space for heritage exhibitions will ensure its continued use and enjoyment for years to come.
This overall vision has helped to shape the Council’s deliberations regarding The Almonry. Costs are very important, but they need to be considered in conjunction with thought about how decisions may impact the town, its residents and its heritage assets. Some benefits do not have a monetary value. The Council needs to provide better facilities to meet the town’s current needs, but also wants to future-proof The Almonry. Future needs are difficult to predict, but it is valid to consider aspirations as well as evidence.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is with regret that the Annual Parish Assembly has been cancelled on the 25th April 2020. However, Battle Town Council will still be holding public consultation on the options for the long term future of the Almonry Building via the Annual Report which will be circulated to all residents within the Parish in early April.
Option 1 – Battle Civic Centre Provide a future proofed facility, accessible by disabled people, for Battle with: sufficient Council office space to enable expansion; a formal Council meeting room; a spacious information centre for Town and District Council services; a welcoming Tourist & Heritage information area and flexible meeting spaces for Council and Community use. Repair & refurbishment of The Almonry and rebuilding of the south wing would cost in the region of £895,770.49. Savings are still being explored (indicated to be in excess of £100,000 at the time of going to press).
Option 2 – A refurbished Almonry Provide Council office space for current staffing; a formal Council meeting room; a hub for Town and District Council information and a Tourist Information Point. Repairs & refurbishment of the Almonry would cost in the region of £739,523.87. Savings are still being explored (indicated to be in excess of £100,000 at the time of going to press). NB. Without suitable facilities for staff, Councillors and visitors with mobility difficulties, this option may not be viable. Alternatives to ensure full accessibility for wheelchair users will continue to be sought.
Option 3 – The relocation of the Council offices The Council would rent fully accessible premises that meet current needs. The Almonry would be repaired to rent as offices. The Council would be responsible for ongoing repairs and maintenance. Repairs would cost in the region of £517,231.27. Savings are still being explored (indicated to be in excess of £100,000 at the time of going to press).
Option 4 – The sale of The Almonry Relocation of Council offices to fully accessible premises, either rented or purchased. The sale could raise in the region of £445,000 less professional fees and relocation costs.
The report expands on the information provided above and includes a questionnaire, inviting individuals to think carefully about the different options available and detail which, they feel, is best for the town.
Before deciding how to proceed, the Council wants to hear from residents of Battle Civil Parish. We are calling on a wide range of people to make their views heard, so it is important to have your say. Please complete and return pages 14-16 of the Annual Report to: The Almonry, High Street, Battle, TN33 0EA by 19th June 2020.
Annual memorial inspection – The Council has completed this year’s annual safety inspection of the memorials/headstones at Battle Cemetery and St Mary’s churchyard. Visitors to the cemetery are asked NOT to reinstall any memorial which has been laid down as all pairs need to be carried out by a qualified stonemason. Anyone wishing to discuss the inspection or a memorial which has been laid down is invited to contact the office. (09/08/2019)
High Street skate ramp – The council are fund raising to replace the skate ramp on Battle High Street.
The Town Council office is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Full Council meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month. Dates, times and venues of these meetings are advertised on several notice boards throughout the town and are available on the website. Members of the public are most welcome to attend and speak to Members about any issues during the public session or just sit and listen.
Ongoing project information can also be found on this website along with an opportunity to sign up to receive news posts automatically.