NuGen Properties

RAAC crisis spread to theatres


The Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton has been closed pending remedial works

Theatres in Dartford, Northampton and Carlisle have been closed after discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) roof panels amid fears that they might suddenly collapse.

Dartford Borough Council said that it had been commissioning regular surveys on The Orchard Theatre and the last report from consultants in April said that defects in the RAAC panels in the theatre’s roof were ‘not significant’. The council has been planning to replace panels in the ‘medium to long term’ in line with the consultants’ advice.

However, a routine inspection on Monday this week, following news of school building closures across the country, resulted in a more cautious stance from the consultants, who  recommended closing the theatre until further surveys could be carried out and a solution identified.

Similarly, a building survey at the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton ascertained the presence of RAAC in the foyers. “In line with recent government health and safety guidance around this material, both of the Royal & Derngate auditoriums and Northampton Filmhouse will need to be closed with immediate effect,” a statement from the venue said.

“We are working urgently with our landlords, West Northamptonshire Council, to investigate and plan remedial works and are asking for patience while we do so. The safety of our audiences and staff is paramount and therefore it is essential that the situation is assessed fully before audiences return.”

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, leader of West Northamptonshire Council, said: “We have been assessing our buildings for the potential presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) since 12th July, as concerns about the material increased.

“Since the government’s announcement last week about the heightened dangers of this material in buildings, we have accelerated that process.

“Whilst liaising with the Department for Education (DfE), we have been made aware that Northampton International Academy could be impacted, and we will be supporting the school to ensure it does all it can to continue providing education in a safe and effective way.

“We have also become aware that Royal & Derngate is affected and, as the building’s landlord, we are investigating the extent of this. In the meantime, the theatre is not able to welcome audiences under the current guidance. We know this will be very disappointing for those who have tickets for upcoming shows.

“Public safety is our first concern, and we must take action where there is any risk to that. We will move as quickly as we can to determine the scale of work required to help get these buildings back into operation and we are asking for everyone’s patience while we carry out this vital work.”

In Carlisle, The Sands Centre auditorium has been closed after the discovery of RAAC panels.

Leader of Cumberland Council, Cllr Mark Fryer, said: “Following the government’s recent change in guidance on the use of RAAC in the construction of school buildings, we have proactively reviewed our public buildings. RAAC is present in the auditorium of the Events Centre at The Sands, Carlisle.

“Although the new main Sands Centre building is unaffected, which includes the pools, gym, sports halls, café, bars and restaurant, the council has taken the decision to close the stand-alone events centre so that further assessments can be made of the older part of the building.

“The 1980s part of the building did not form part of the recent redevelopment work, operates separately from the redeveloped site and is self-contained.

“The events centre building has been inspected on a regular basis in accordance with government guidelines and was compliant until the recent change in government guidance, in late August.

“Improvement works for the older part of The Sands Centre building were part of phase two of the redevelopment and work was already underway to progress these works. This work will now be accelerated.

“The decision to temporarily close the events space is a precautionary step and does not impact on the day to day running of the main leisure centre.”

The National Theatre on London’s South Bank also has RAAC in limited parts of its buildings but its engineers are proving more phlegmatic.

A spokesperson for the National Theatre told trade paper The Stage: “Our structural engineers are in the process of surveying these areas, and initial indications are that they are safe and do not currently require remedial works. We have always and will continue to take the safety of our staff and audiences very seriously.”

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