The York Guildhall restoration project has gone over budget by nearly £6m since it began in 2019, the latest figures reveal.

The renovation time almost doubled from 77 weeks to 141 weeks due to a host of challenging factors, not least the Covid pandemic.

The latest projection for the overall cost of the scheme is £25.9m – an overspend of £4m, plus the £1.5m extra that was approved in November 2020, according to City of York Council papers.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance, said the medieval Guildhall, which reopened in May, had enjoyed “rave reviews”. 

York Press: Cllr Nigel Ayre at the GuildhallCllr Nigel Ayre at the Guildhall

The redevelopment includes office space, which is managed by York Science Park and is now fully let, a new riverside restaurant, which is not yet occupied, and space for community use. 

Cllr Ayre said: “It was always going to be an incredibly challenging project to deliver and I think that was before we had the issues of Covid.”

The project was hit by flooding, the discovery of historic human remains and asbestos, as well as delays in connecting to utilities.

“Pretty much everything that could have possibly have been encountered on that project was encountered,” Coun Ayre added. 

“One of the key things to reflect on is we probably will exceed what we put in the business case in terms of the annual revenue from the office base and the restaurant unit.”

York Press: The Guildhall in York

Significant improvements have been made to the Guildhall and its surrounds, which had only received minor repairs since the 1940s, including underfloor heating, a cafe and toilets – as well as critical structural repairs.

The final cost and contract arrangements have not yet been completed, but the latest £4m overspend will be paid for from the council’s capital contingency budget.

“Should final costs be lower than those currently estimated it is proposed that any reduced costs are returned to the capital contingency,” according to the council’s report.

“The project team have managed the contract proactively and delivered a range of savings totalling over £1m, without compromising the agreed project benefits, to offset the additional costs incurred because of delay and associated additional works,” it added.

The project benefitted from a grant of £2.3m from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The lease agreement with the University of York, which operates York Science Park, also allows the council to use the Guildhall for civic and democratic events for free.