THE multi-million pound renovation work on Bradford's historic St George's Hall is to begin shortly as a contractor has been appointed, the Council has today confirmed.

But the cost of the restoration project of the key Grade II listed building has escalated and is now expected to cost £8.2 million in total - £2.8m more than previously outlined.

Henry Boot, which has worked on heritage projects in Huddersfield, York and Manchester, has been appointed to carry out the works, which will begin in on site as soon as possible.

The completion date has now also been pushed back and work is expected to be finished towards the end of 2018.

The theatre closed for what was described as a year-long refurbishment in March last year, with the re-opening date originally set for early 2017. It was pushed back to late 2017, then only last month was described as being early 2018.

Confirmation of the new competition date today means the popular hall will now be closed for around two and a half years, rather than the intended one year.

Work has been taking place behind the scenes with site surveys, conservation specialists, architects, specialist seating consultants and interior designers making preparations for the project.

But until now there had been no confirmation as to the work starting in earnest.

It would appear that in-depth surveys into the ceilings, walls and structural supports in the bar and front of house areas, as well as the state of the stonework and electrics, has unearthed more work than previously expected - resulting in the estimates for the work increasing.

The now £8.2m project is being funded by Bradford Council, which owns the building, and £1.5m is coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Council spokesman said: "This is a Grade Two listed Victorian building that is an incredibly important part of our district’s cultural heritage and it is vital that it’s restored to its former glory and can be enjoyed by local residents and visitors to our city once again.

“The last time St George's Hall, which was built in 1851, had any major work carried out was in 1983. General maintenance has taken place since then, and also remedial works when in 2003 a large piece of ornate plasterwork fell from the ceiling overnight, and further fine cracks were discovered."

It emerged last month that a prestigious annual brass band contest, which had been staged at St George's Hall for more than 20 years, will not return to the venue.

Organisers of The Yorkshire Brass Band Championships took the decision after uncertainty around the hall's restoration project had played a part in their decision to move the competition elsewhere for good.

After finding a temporary venue for the 2017 competition in Huddersfield Town Hall, they decided to keep the contest there for forthcoming championships.