Both Preston Guild Hall’s Grand Hall and Charter Theatre contain RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete), Blog Preston can reveal.Advertisement
Specialist RAAC engineers – Curtins Consulting Engineers – have now completed their triage inspections of the venues and the roof panels of both of the main venue spaces have the crumbly concrete present rendering the Guild Hall venues unusable and unsafe.
Preston City Council said both the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre will remain closed and secured while ‘preliminary works’ are carried out by specialist engineers to size up a possible repair job.
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In March last year the city council heralded the venue fully back in council control after a legal wrangle with the Rigby estate was concluded. The legal battle began in May 2019 when the city council claimed the late Simon Rigby had breached conditions of the lease and took up possession of the building. That move came after in 2014 the city council had handed Mr Rigby the venue for £1.
Engineers will now prepare a detailed report for Town Hall chiefs and councillors to consider the cost of any potential solution for works to put the venue back into a state where it can open – after plans for an opening before Christmas 2023 were dashed when in September it was suspected the RAAC was present in the venue.
Leader of Preston City Council, councillor Matthew Brown, 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 longer-term solution for the Guild
Hall as a functioning venue, but it’s out of our control.”
A make-shift venue, within the foyer space of the Guild Hall is now being investigated that could host smaller events throughout the year with a capacity of around 500 people. Under the previous management the foyer had opened as a venue badged ‘LiVe’.
Cllr Brown told Blog Preston: “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.”
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To make the preliminary works and do the closer inspection of the affected roof panels then scaffolding and platforms will need to be put up inside both venues. The city council will be going out to marketplace to source the scaffolding needed.
Further repairs are also planned to the Guild Hall with ongoing upgrades to the fire sprinkler system, fire doors and additional roofing repairs.
Leader of the Preston Liberal Democrat group, councillor John Potter, told Blog Preston: “It’s disappointing and a worry that the Guild Hall is in structural trouble after coming back into public hands.
“Everyone was looking forward to events and performances returning to the Guild Hall but safety must come first and investigations have to be completed.
“Hopefully the Guild Hall will reopen soon but depending on overall repair bill, serious discussions will have to take place as to the long term future of the Guild Hall and whether it will need to be replaced.
“Preston needs a modern conference and events centre for our city centre to grow and prosper. With our excellent transport links, Preston is missing a huge opportunity by not having one.”
The Guild Hall’s ground floor trading units and the temporary home for the Harris library within it have remained open for business throughout the venue’s closure and remain open to the public now.
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Last year marked 50 years since the Guild Hall opened in 1973 and it was once a major tour venue on the circuit for bands with the likes of Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Roxy Music all performing along with the Charter Theatre being home to many theatre productions, dance shows and the annual panto.
What do you think about the future of the Guild Hall? Let us know in the comments below
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