STRUCTURAL engineers working on behalf of Cumberland Council are making assessments of the interior of the Old Courthouse building in Cockermouth after the council was granted a warrant to gain entry.

A warrant of entry was granted on Monday (October 30) at Workington’s Magistrates’ Court.

Following the partial collapse of the building earlier this month, Cumberland Council issued a Notice of Intention of Emergency Works under section 78 of the Building Act 1984.

This listed the emergency work they had undertaken to remove the imminent danger caused by the building's collapse. This included installing fencing and installing a covered walkway across the Cocker bridge.

The council also informed the owner of the property that they required access to the property and would soon be serving a further notice using section 54 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

This enables a local authority to carry out urgent works for the preservation of listed buildings in their area after giving notice to the owner.

Further legal action has been taken which has now allowed the council’s appointed structural engineers to access the partially collapsed building.

A Cumberland Council spokesperson said: “We have taken further legal action which has allowed us to enter the building.

“Structural engineers working on our behalf have now been able to assess the interior of the building.

“This is a complex site and public safety is our main priority.

“We need to determine what bracing is required to the building before removal of any debris can be carried out to the rear of the property. If the internal structure isn’t braced that can lead to a further collapse.

“As there an urgency to carry out the assessment, the court has given us permission to enter the site.”

The Old Courthouse is a Grade II listed building, and the council said it is in ongoing discussions with partners including Historic England.

Some exterior assessments of the site have already been undertaken a LiDAR survey which has provided a 3D map of the building. A contractor is continuing to work with the council to assess access to the site and is helping to determine how any works could be undertaken.

The bridge over the river Cocker continues to remain closed to traffic, as a precautionary measure, but a new walkway is available for pedestrians and cyclists. This opened on Thursday, October 12.

Temporary traffic lights have been installed in Kirkgate and the on-street parking in this area has been suspended to help manage the flow of traffic through the town.

The river embankment has been fenced off in the potential drop zone.

Traders and residents are desperate for Cocker Bridge to be re-opened to vehicles, a recent council meeting heard, particularly in the crucial run-up to Christmas. "Trade in the town centre is weak..." one councillor said, with another adding: "People think Cockermouth is closed."

But businesses in the town are open and councillors urged constituents to shop local.