Makeshift venue for events being prepared as work to remove RAAC from Preston's Guild Hall delayed

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The Council is 'exploring its options' following the latest blow to plans to reopen the 'moth-balled' venue. 

A makeshift venue which could be used as an event space while work is carried out on Preston's Guild Hall is being prepared by the council.

The Guild Hall will remain closed for the foreseeable future after 'crumbling concrete' (RAAC) was confirmed in its roof.

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As previously reported by the Lancashire Post, RAAC was suspected in the roof of the Guild Hall. Now confirmation of its presence means the long-awaited reopening of the Guild Hall, closed for four years, will be postponed until work is completed to make the venue safe.

The 'crumbling concrete' was confirmed in both the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre within the building. It means both venues must remain closed and secured, as per national guidance, until repairs are made.

In the meantime, the Council is "exploring its options" and has suggested opening the foyer space in the Guild Hall as a temporary venue to host smaller events.

This makeshift venue would accommodate around 500 people and host a number of community, family and business events. The Council said the lower level foyer space is unaffected by the RAAC and is safe for public events.

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Councillor 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.

Specialist RAAC engineers have carried out an inspection of the
Guild Hall and it has been confirmed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved
aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and Charter
Theatre venues within the building.Specialist RAAC engineers have carried out an inspection of the
Guild Hall and it has been confirmed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved
aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and Charter
Theatre venues within the building.
Specialist RAAC engineers have carried out an inspection of the Guild Hall and it has been confirmed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre venues within the building. | Preston City Council

"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.

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

RAAC can collapse without warning when it reaches the end of its lifespan. It was most widely used between the 1960s and 1980s - and the Guild Hall was constructed in the early 1970s.

Preston City Council was reluctant to say exactly when the venue will be fit to reopen, but warned the work could take some time to complete.

Further inspections are needed to determine how much it will cost the Council to undertake the work, which will require scaffolding to be erected around the building in Lancaster Road.

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What next?

Specialist RAAC engineers carried out a 'triage inspection' of the Guild Hall and it was confirmed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre venues within the building.

Confirmation of RAAC means both venues must remain closed and secured, as per national guidance, until repairs are made.

The next step is for Preston City Council to carry out preliminary works before specialist engineers can do a further investigative sampling of the roof panels.

This will involve extensive scaffolding and platforms erected in both the venues, said the Council, to enable a closer inspection of the roof. RAAC engineers will then provide a further detailed report to identify a 'suitable solution'.

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"This will determine the extent of the funds required to cover the cost of the works," added the Council, who will "go out to the marketplace" to source the scaffolding required for works to be undertaken.

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

The venue was mothballed four-and-a-half-years ago after a legal wrangle sparked by the collapse into administration of the company that was operating it at the time.

Preston City Council retook control of the building and, after a settlement in March 2023, was finally able to start work on bringing the 50-year-old facility back into use. 

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