Report confirms dangerous concrete in top theatre and music venue
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A well-known theatre and music venue in Cardiff which could be set for a takeover contains the notorious concrete known as RAAC.
A Cardiff Council report last year confirmed that the ceiling of St David’s Hall is made of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), the usage of which has recently been regarded with heightened safety concerns.
The council said St David’s Hall has been subject to regular inspections for more than a year and that there has been no deterioration in the condition of RAAC present at the venue.
Nation-wide music venue operator, Academy Music Group (AMG), is set to take on the running of St David’s Hall.
The vulnerabilities of RAAC, which has a life span of about 30 years, has been known since the 1990s.
It was a material used in construction during the 1960s and 1990s, however it wasn’t until 2020 that local authorities in Wales were made aware of the potential issue with RAAC according to the Welsh Government.
The UK Government announced new guidance on RAAC in educational settings in August 2023.
Since then, a number of schools across the country have had to close due to concerns over concrete.
Cardiff Council said its specialist inspectors are currently prioritising the city’s schools and that to date, no RAAC has been found.
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “St David’s Hall has been subject to thorough and regular inspections by specialists for over 18 months, and during that time the local authority has received reports that there has been no deterioration in the condition of RAAC present at the venue, and it remains safe to operate as normal.
“Cardiff Council has implemented a building management and health and safety strategy, based on professional advice and government bulletins, to ensure the venue remains safe in the short term.
“Ahead of taking over the operation of St David’s Hall, AMG has also undertaken its own inspections and have plans in place to undertake the remedial work required in the medium to long-term.”
Cardiff Council is currently having to deal with a £24m budget gap and it is believed that the local authority could save up to £1m if it frees itself from the running of St David’s Hall.
A document relating to the potential takeover of St David’s Hall by AMG showed that the future operator of the music venue would be expected to take on a repairs bill of £38m.
A Cardiff Council spokesperson continued: “The inspection programme is prioritising school buildings constructed when this material was routinely used and will continue until all relevant buildings have been inspected, this programme is expected to be completed by the end of September.
“If we identify any suspected RAAC, safety measures will be implemented and an RAAC specialist consultant will undertake a detailed assessment to advise on remedial actions which might be required.
“Since 2012, a multi-million school rebuilding programme has been undertaken in Cardiff, delivering brand new secondary and primary schools across the city, replacing buildings which have reached the end of operational life.
“This rebuilding programme continues, with more new builds recently completed or in the pipeline.
“For example, the new Fitzalan High School and Ysgol Groes Wen, both of which will open this week, and plans progressing for a new Willows High School in Splott, and an innovative shared campus in Fairwater, which will be home to three new-build schools.”
“With the school RAAC inspection programme nearing completion, our inspection team is drawing up an inspection schedule for all other buildings owned by Cardiff Council, programmed on a priority basis.”
AMG has been approached for a comment regarding the presence of RAAC at St David’s Hall.
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