THE future of one of Knutsford's most iconic buildings has become a little clearer after the town council announced it had engaged the help of specialist consultants.

The firm, said to be experts in reimagining historic buildings for sustainable future use, will aim to secure significant investment to renovate and breathe fresh life into 60 King Street.

Having been home to La Belle Epoque for 46 years, the Grade II listed building has been vacant since 2019 following an acrimonious five year fallout between the tenant and the town council, which resulted in a debt of more than £67,000 being written off.

The consultants, who have supported the regeneration of historic buildings across the UK, will be assisting the council in creating a costed business case and options for the building to operate sustainably.

The council is also looking to secure a significant Heritage Lottery Fund grant to regenerate the building and bring it into operation as a mixed-use community, civic and commercial space.

This early consultancy phase of work, including the exploration of options and the development of funding sources is being completed by the consultants on the basis that compensation and future work is subject to funding success.

"We are looking at an exciting new approach to bring this iconic building back to life," said Town Mayor, Cllr Stewart Gardiner.

"Over the coming months we will be working with our consultants to develop proposals for the building and are optimistic about our prospects of securing funding to rejuvenate one of the town’s landmark buildings."

Knutsford Guardian:

Knutsford Mayor Cllr Stewart Gardiner inside the building

Over the past two years, the council has sought to obtain a new tenant through national estate agents Savills and although it had been in negotiations with one interested party, they ended early this year with the business withdrawing due to the scale of investment required, which had similarly deterred other potential tenants.

The council was then faced with the tough decision of either selling the building or borrowing significant monies to fund upfront repairs.

A report prepared by surveying firm Fisher German highlighted a likely expenditure in excess of £675,000 being required in the next 10 years as the 116-year-old building requires re-roofing, in addition to render and stonework repairs plus the renewal of a concrete deck amongst a range of other smaller works.

The building is also needs a new heating system not to mention extensive redecoration owing to the building being left in a very poor internal condition by the former tenant.

"Our goal with 60 King Street has been for it to be in active use, good repair and to deliver a surplus for the council to reduce the precept," said Cllr Peter Coan, Chairman of the Assets and Operations Committee.

"We were naturally disappointed that it was not possible to secure a tenant for the whole building due to its condition.

"We are hopeful that this new approach will secure a sustainable future for the building, and we have engaged the consultants on terms which ensure that if they are unable to win funding there will be no cost to the Council."