A £350,000 plan to ensure the People’s Palace remains open has been approved by the council’s City Administration Committee.
Doubts over the People’s Palace had been raised due to structural issues with the adjoining Winter Gardens glasshouse, which provides fire escape routes for the highly popular social history museum.
However following a feasibility and costing exercise, the £350k funding agreed by members of the committee will allow a series of proposed adaptations to the building to take place which will ensure the People’s Palace meets fire safety standards and can remain open.
With the Winter Gardens due close on January 1, 2019 after a report from a consultant engineer highlighted health and safety concerns with the structure, it is likely that the People’s Palace will shut on a temporary basis while the necessary permissions are gained and adaptations are completed. It is estimated the work to enable the People’s Palace to remain open on a longer term basis will take eight to twelve weeks and so any closure of the museum will be kept to a minimum.
The proposal placed before the committee also indicated that the current situation is an opportunity for a ‘complete review of the purpose and function of both buildings’, but also all of the city’s other remaining, historic glasshouse structures. A feasibility study will therefore look to identify a sustainable future for these buildings that will protect the long term investment that is required for them.
Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “There was strong, emotional reaction to the possible closure of the People’s Palace, which shows exactly what it means to the people of Glasgow. In the circumstances it is right that we have pursued a plan that will allow it to remain open independently of the Winter Gardens.
“The Winter Gardens is also a much loved part of the city’s heritage, but given its ornate and detailed design it will always require a substantial and expensive programme of repairs. At this point it is also right that we take stock and look for sustainable options for both the Winter Gardens and the People’s Palace.
“This has to be part of a wider look at all our glasshouses and other built heritage. It is not enough to keep pouring money into our historic buildings and hoping for a different outcome, both physically and financially.
“We need to think creatively about how we use our built heritage so that the architecture that everyone in the city enjoys does have a sustainable future. This will be no easy task, but developing a heritage strategy will help us to determine what we need to do protect these buildings for generations to come.”
At this stage the issues with the Winter Gardens that the structure is in need of repairs and the sealant used to secure thousands of windows in the glasshouse has reached the end of its life cycle and requires wholesale replacement.
After a pane of glass fell into the public area of the building in 2016, protective netting was installed around the glasshouse to prevent further incident at a cost £270k. Since 2016 the gardens have had to be required to be closed during periods of high winds or heavy snow.
The structural engineers commissioned by the council identified a number of structural issues with the Winter Gardens with the current repair bill estimated to be £5-7.5m.
At further report will be submitted to the City Administration Committee in due course on the feasibility study which will explore options for the People’s Palace, Winter Gardens and other historic glasshouse structures.