Unsafe concrete found in Preston Guild Hall buildings

By Tim Aldred

26 Jan 2024

Guild Hall Preston

Following a triage inspection by specialist engineers, RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) has been found to be present in two Preston venues.

The concrete, which was used in construction projects between the 1950s and 1990s as it was lightweight and cost-effective to produce, has recently been found to be less durable than traditional concrete and susceptible to rapid degradation.

It is the use of RAAC which has forced the closure of more than 230 schools in the UK, and now it has been found present in the roof panels of Preston Guild Hall's Grand Hall and Charter Theatre.

Following national guidance and initial investigations by specialist structural engineers, Curtins Consulting Engineers, their Kendal-based office has confirmed that both venues will remain closed and secured.

The next step is for Preston City Council to carry out preliminary works before specialist engineers can do a investigative sampling of the roof panels. This will invlove extensive scaffolding and platforms to be erected in both the venues to enable a safe, closer inspection of the roof. RAAC engineers will then provide a further detailed report to identify a suitable solution, and will determine the extent of the funds required to cover the cost of the works.

The council will need to go out to the marketplace to source the scaffolding required for the works to be undertaken.

In the meantime, council teams are exploring the options to open the foyer space in the Guild Hall as a temporary, independent venue that can host some smaller events throughout the year, up to the capacity of approximately 500.

Coun Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council, said: "The news that the Guild Hall venues both have RAAC in the roof is disappointing but not unexpected. We now need to find the best solution and the funds to rectify the problem. Our ‘safety first’ approach remains a priority and we are proceeding with caution.

"Alongside our own disappointment, we understand the disappointment of residents and we share their frustrations at not being able to progress this quicker with a view to a longerterm solution for the Guild Hall as a functioning venue, but it’s out of our control.

“Although this is a blow to our plans to reopen the Guild Hall, hopefully we can use the Foyer to support some smaller community, family and business events throughout the year as this lower level space remains unaffected by the RAAC and would be safe to open to the public.”

Other repair works are being carried out in the building including ongoing upgrades to the fire sprinkler system and fire doors and additional roofing repairs.

The remainder of the Guild Hall, including the ground floor trading units and the Harris library remain open for business.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Tim Aldred

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