Replacement of Kettering Library roof on Executive agenda


08 November 2023

Kettering Library exterior

A project to replace the 120-year-old roof on the heritage Grade 2 listed Kettering library building will be discussed at next week’s meeting of North Northamptonshire Council’s Executive.
The report details the work required, timeframe and costs to replace the existing roof which is leaking and rapidly deteriorating. The condition of the roof is impacting on the library and art gallery’s ability to open and the council is naturally keen to resolve this issue. The library and art gallery buildings are connected to a new extension, which together make up the facility known as Cornerstone. 
The Executive will discuss the option of tenting the existing roof. This could allow Cornerstone to open sooner and whilst the roof replacement takes place, subject to the necessary health and safety assessments. This would mean that the building would be brought back into use as soon as practicably possible, rather than being out of use during the full duration of the roof replacement works.
The library roof has been in need of repair for some time. A survey undertaken by the former county council in 2019 stated that the library roof would need replacing within 10 years. The original plan was to repair the roof once the Cornerstone project had been completed as the roof replacement could not be included in the scope of the works for the Cornerstone extension. However, during the winter of 2022, the roof deteriorated rapidly causing water ingress into the main library building and some parts of the new extension where the old roof meets the new. This resulted in the new extension, a £4.5 million project delivered using SEMLEP funding, being unable to open as originally planned. 
Following a period of intensive rain in October this year, a section of the internal library roof was damaged. This resulted in the library being closed for health and safety reasons. The council is looking at alternative locations for library provision in the town whilst the building is made watertight. It has also looked at options to ensure the library building does not need to remain closed whilst the roof works take place.
Since the deterioration of the roof last winter, specialist contractors have assessed the works required. The council has carefully considered the findings of this work before moving forward with the project to replace the roof. Due to the roofing works that are now known to be required, it is proposed that the building is covered in a specially designed, purpose-built tent to make it watertight whilst the roof replacement is undertaken. Current costings for the value of the entire project are estimated at £6.807m and a timeframe of two years has been proposed to complete all works.

This is an extremely complex project with a variety of factors having an impact on the project, especially when you consider the age of the building, its Grade 2 listed status and the Collyweston slate roof. We understand the frustrations of residents and stakeholders and have been working as quickly as possible considering all the options to ensure this project moves forward but have also been dependant on the findings of specialist contractors.
With this in mind, I am pleased that we are now at the next stage and can discuss the project, timeline and projected costings in full at next week’s meeting. This reflects the commitment we have maintained since April 2021 to complete this important cultural project.
Whilst the Library has, unfortunately, had to temporarily close due to damage to the ceiling, officers are continuing to work on alternative options to ensure that we are able to provide a Library provision in the town throughout the works and we will provide updates soon. 
In the long term, we fully recognise the importance of the Library and art gallery to not just Kettering, but the whole of North Northamptonshire. We have a dedicated team working in the safe, watertight section of the buildings to manage and care for the art gallery collection, planning future exhibitions and preparing for when Cornerstone is watertight and can be reopened. Everyone should be assured that we are doing everything to ensure the facilities can open as soon as the building is watertight whilst ensuring the safety of residents and staff.
Cllr Helen Howell, Deputy Leader of North Northamptonshire Council and Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism


The library and art gallery are hugely valued by the local communities that they serve.  Ensuring that the building is open in the future to provide such important services has been and will continue to be our priority. The investment we have made in Cornerstone to date is testament to this.
We have a responsibility to ensure important buildings we own like this are maintained and fit for purpose. If this building is not made watertight soon, there is a greater risk of further damage, which is why it is important that we discuss the options and agree a way forward.
The safety of our staff and visitors is however vitally important and I believe that we should not be rushed into making decisions that could in anyway undermine this.  It is important that any options we consider and recommend for this Grade 2 listed building come from the advice of experienced and expert individuals.
Our main focus is to turn this project around as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible, ensuring we secure this beautiful building for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations to come.
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council

If Executive approve the report, the proposals will be taken to Full Council for approval of the funding allocation.

North Northamptonshire Council’s Executive will meet on Thursday 16 November at 10am in the Corby Cube. All papers are now available online and the meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube.