AN “unsightly” fire-ravaged building could end up costing the taxpayer millions, a council boss has warned.

The House of Lords on Abbey Road, Barrow, was gutted in January 2017 but a council meeting heard there has been no progress on its future.

Barrow Council has paid for scaffolding to go up around the remnants of the historic building to prevent collapse and re-open a public footpath.

But Phil Huck, executive director of Barrow Council said the “legal dispute” involving the building’s owners, insurers and surveyors remained ongoing.

Councillors have complained the building is “unsightly” and have asked how long it will remain a blot on the Barrow landscape.

Cllr Alan Pemberton said the building, which was officially the Barrow Workingmen’s Club and Institute, was in a “sad state” and the council was getting criticised.

Mr Huck said: “I would be absolutely misleading you if I said I thought this was going to be resolved any time soon.” He said the council’s powers to “force the owners” to put the building right was “not very strong” and amounted to a “paper tiger.”

Historic England, which is tasked with ensuring historic buildings are protected, could force the council to restore it, he said.

Mr Huck said: “What is the future of the House of Lords? If I was a gambling man, I think the council will end up owning it. The fundamental problem we have is that because it’s a listed property the importance of maintaining that Listed Building status is equally as important as keeping it safe.

"I think Historic England would like to see the building restored, rather than knocked down. That’s the battle.”

Cllr Pemberton estimated such a project could cost in excess of £12million.

Mr Huck said any restoration would “knock a massive hole” in the council’s capital budget.

He said the law was clear that if the owner “chose to do nothing,” the council could end up being responsible and owning the building.

Mr Huck said: “It is an extraordinarily difficult situation. It’s not very sightly, it’s not very nice but I think the process needs to play out with the owners. It’s about time the owners started doing something about it, frankly.

"I am old enough to remember the old church on School Street, in an equally poor condition, which went on for many, many years, and the outcome of that was the council had to step in to secure that building as well.”

Cllr Pemberton, the Conservative member for Hawcoat, said he feared that the situation could “on forever”.

The building was first listed in 1976 and dates to 1870, having been built at a cost of £3,450 for industrialist Henry Schneider.