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Guild Hall closed pending surveys amid national roofing fears

12 September 2023

It is believed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre within the Guild Hall.

Following national guidance and pending a thorough investigation by specialist structural engineers, both venues will remain closed and secured.

A spokesperson for Preston City Council said:

"We are taking a cautious and 'safety first' approach by securing the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre auditoria, until specialist consultant structural engineers can carry out a more detailed inspection. Unfortunately, we understand that this may take some time, as the experts required to carry out this very particular type of work are naturally prioritising school inspections. As a responsible Council, the safety of the public and our colleagues must be our number one priority.

"The venues themselves are not currently in use, but we have been working inside both on a range of safety and associated works. A small number of future events were planned for this year, and we are in discussion with the organisers about these.

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

The closure follows the news that five other regional theatres, including The National Theatre, have all been forced to shut pending further investigations.

More information

RAAC, a lightweight 'bubbly' form of concrete was used widely in buildings between 1950 and the mid-1990s, usually in the form of panels on flat roofs, as well as pitched roofs, floors, and walls.

The Guild Hall Preston was officially opened in 1973, 50 years ago. The Guild Hall has been closed for four years, having previously been managed by an outside company. It was only during recent works inside the building that the presence of this type of concrete came to light.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the problems with the Guild Hall roof and why won't it be opening in November as planned?

It is believed that RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is present in the roof panels of the Grand Hall and the Charter Theatre. Following national guidance and pending a thorough investigation by specialist structural engineers, both venues will remain closed and secured.

The safety of the public and our colleagues must be our number one priority.

When will the Guild Hall re-open?

The venues will remain closed whilst specialist consultant structural engineers carry out a more detailed inspection. Unfortunately, we understand that this may take some time, as the experts required to carry out this very particular type of work are naturally prioritising school inspections.

We will update the website on the progress.

Why is it just the Grand Hall and Charter Theatre that are closed?

The Guild Hall auditorium areas remain closed as per previous arrangements. The ground floor tenants, including the temporary relocation of the Harris Library, are not affected.

How come an event was booked in (Preston Weekender) when you knew the roof was unsafe?

The two venues in the Guild Hall are not currently in use and have been closed for four years, having been previously managed by an outside company.

We have been working on a range of safety and associated works with a view to opening the venue up again safely to the public. It has only recently been brought to our attention that it is believed that the roof contains RAAC and we are following national Government guidelines.

A small number of events were planned for this year and we are in discussion with the organisers about these.

Is the Weekender event cancelled? Will it be rescheduled? Can I get a refund?

We are working closely with event organisers, pending further structural investigations by expert consultants, as to the safety of the venue and the works that will be required in order for the two venues to be reopened safely to the public.

Event organisers will update ticket holders as soon as possible.

When will the Guild Hall reopen?

We are awaiting further instructions from the experts before we make any decisions on the future opening of the two venues. Further updates and progress will be made available on this website.

Will the repairs be paid out of taxpayers money?

The cost of any remedial work is yet unknown and a full review will be undertaken.

What is RAAC?

RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is a lightweight 'bubbly' form of concrete that was used widely in buildings between 1950 and the mid-90s, usually in the form of panels on flat roofs, as well as pitched roofs, floors and walls.

Why was RAAC used on the Guild Hall?

The Guild Hall Preston was officially opened in 1973, 50 years ago, when RAAC was widely used in many municipal buildings and it has since come to light that RAAC only has a safe shelf life of 30 years.