North Devon Council has been forced to urgently appoint new contractors to build an extension to Barnstaple’s museum after their first choice fell into administration.

The council initially appointed Hampshire-based Herbert H Drew and Son to complete the £1.8million Long Bridge Wing in April, but the company rescinded the contract after going into administration earlier this month.

The council has now appointed Devon Contractors to complete the work – at an extra cost of £55,500. Council leader Des Brailey signed off the extra funding in an urgent decision on Monday.

A report on the decision said a £40,000 grant from Arts Council England (ACE) for engineering parts needed to be spent by the council by the end of May, otherwise the money would have to be returned.

Councillor Dick Jones, North Devon Council’s executive member for parks, leisure and culture, said: “This is a massive project, with over one and a half million pounds worth of external funding so it was really important that we acted quickly to appoint an alternative contractor.

“Devon Contractors is a Devon-based firm with lots of experience and I’m sure they’ll do us proud.”

The change means the project will get underway later, but the council says the completion date remains June 2019.

Devon Contractors, which is based in Clyst St Mary, near Exeter has experience in refurbishing historical buildings, including Devonport Guildhall and St Aubyn’s Church, both in Plymouth, as well as a number of new builds.

Stuart O’Higgins, contracts manager at Devon Contractors said: “We were shortlisted on the original tender for these works and are very excited to be selected as the main contractor by North Devon Council.

“The museum is an integral part of Barnstaple and North Devon, and we very much look forward to working with the council on this historical project.”

The museum closed to the public earlier this month in preparation for the extension, with work due to start next month.

Parts of the museum will reopen in Autumn, and a full reopening is expected in Summer 2019.

The Long Bridge Wing was given permission to start in July last year after receiving more than £850,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Money for the project also came via the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund, North Devon Council and the Arts Council.

The museum also raised more than £200,000 through grants and fundraising, including money from Fullabrook CIC, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Foyle Foundation and project patrons Brend Hotels and Philip J Milton and Company.