Challenges – but Opera House restoration is on track

Opera House refurbishment. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (38038654)

THE Jersey Opera House building has “bitten back at every turn” but the multi-million-pound restoration project remains on time and on budget, according to the Economic Development Minister.

Deputy Kirsten Morel said he was confident that Islanders would be enjoying performances once again towards the spring of next year, despite multiple “challenges” faced by builders.

The refurbishment of the Grade 2 listed building, which has been closed since 2020, is being carried out by Ashbe Construction and is due to be completed in December at a cost £12.7 million.

Its closure was a major blow for arts organisations and drew criticism from the Performing Arts Development Group, which cited historic under-funding as the reason why the building became “so unfit for purpose”.

Deputy Morel said the works remained on time and on budget, but that he was told the building had “bitten back” at “every turn”.

Deputy Kirsten Morel and chair of the Jersey Opera House Ltd Dave Chalk. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (38038633)

He explained: “The builders have found all sorts of curiosities and challenges as they have worked through.

“What has been impressive is that they have worked around every issue, they have dealt with every issue and they are still on time and on budget so they have done a really good job in that respect.”

He added that “at the end of the day it is a very old building” and that there was “always going to be a need for maintenance”.

“That is something that we will work with Jersey Opera House on to try and make sure they have the resources to maintain it as needed. But there will be, at some point in the future, needs for large refurbishments – that is always going to happen with old buildings.”

The budget was originally set at £11.7 million for works during 2023 and 2024, but following a pre-construction enabling process last year the figure rose to £12.7 million – to cover additional mechanical and electrical works among other changes.

Opera House refurbishment. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (38038628)

Ben Cairney, managing director of Ashbe Construction, said: “What you have got is lots of different buildings over the years that have all been merged into one. Some of the building that was part of the original Opera House is still there and has gone through several refurbishments.

“You then also have different refurbishments and things that have happened over the years so naturally, when you start putting all these different parts together, some of it doesn’t always work. So what we needed to do was come and strip it back and make sure that all of the problems are found out – which is what we have done.”

He continued: “When it’s put together, it is going to be done in a way that requires the least amount of maintenance.”

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