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Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall temporarily closes for RAAC safety checks

CARDIFF’S renowned music and arts venue, St. David’s Hall, is to close, as the Cardiff Council takes precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the structure due to the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) within the building. The closure, effective immediately, is expected to last at least four weeks, with the decision prompted by recent guidance changes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regarding RAAC in public buildings.

The Cardiff Council had been aware of the existence of RAAC concrete in the building’s ceiling since 2021 and had been actively monitoring the situation. However, the revised HSE guidelines prompted discussions with independent structural engineers and insurers, leading to the decision to temporarily close the beloved arts and music venue. This comes after the council confirmed the presence of RAAC earlier this week.

St. David’s Hall, in conjunction with the Cardiff Council, conducted regular inspections over the past 18 months, during which no concerns were raised about the condition or deterioration of RAAC. This state of affairs remains unchanged. Nevertheless, the vulnerabilities associated with RAAC, a construction material popular in the 1960s to 1990s with a typical lifespan of 30 years, have been acknowledged since the 1990s. Notably, it was only in 2020 that local authorities in Wales were made aware of potential safety issues related to RAAC.

In August 2023, the UK Government introduced new guidelines concerning RAAC in educational settings. Since then, numerous schools across the country have been forced to close due to safety concerns, including two schools in Wales.

A spokesperson for the Cardiff Council stated, “The decision has been taken in light of the recent change to advice on RAAC in public buildings issued by the Health and Safety Executive and following further discussions with the council’s appointed independent structural engineers and the council’s insurers.” They emphasized the comprehensive building management and health and safety strategy that has been in place for the past 18 months, involving regular inspections by experts in RAAC. “Throughout this time no issues were raised about the condition of RAAC in the building and there was no evidence of deterioration, and this remains the case.”

However, the council, committed to public safety, is proceeding with intrusive surveys to alleviate any concerns. These surveys are expected to take a minimum of four weeks, after which the venue will be reopened as soon as possible. The spokesperson added, “We know this will cause a lot of inconvenience and disappointment, and we would like to apologize to all our customers, but we hope you will understand that the safety of audiences, staff, artists, volunteers, and everyone at the venue is paramount.”

St. David’s Hall is currently undergoing a takeover bid by Academy Music Group (AMG) from the council. The council stated that AMG has already conducted inspections and devised plans for necessary work. “We will be contacting promoters and hirers to discuss the potential for rescheduling performances and to review all other options,” said the spokesperson. “We would be grateful if customers could give us the space to undertake this work so that we can come back to you as quickly as possible about your ticket purchase/cancelled event.”

The council reaffirmed its commitment to St. David’s Hall’s long-term future, acknowledging the need for investment to address RAAC and other maintenance issues. The transfer of the venue to Academy Music Group (AMG) is in progress, and AMG has plans in place for medium to long-term remedial work. The council concluded by apologizing to St. David’s Hall customers for the late cancellations, assuring them of efforts to reschedule performances and provide alternatives, with updates available on the St. David’s Hall website.