Whitchurch Civic Centre to remain closed following RAAC survey
A detailed structural survey undertaken by specialist RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) engineers has concluded that RAAC exists across the majority of the Whitchurch Civic Centre complex, and that it has major structural issues which have been assessed as critical. Their professional recommendation is that it is not safe to reopen the building.
The buildings problems are further complicated by the widespread existence of asbestos which although currently protected would be disturbed by any works.
As a result, future options for the site will now be drawn up ahead of a final decision by Shropshire Council’s Cabinet in January.
Most of the Civic Centre has been closed to the public since September this year following an initial assessment which identified RAAC roof beams in parts of the building.
Meanwhile, Shropshire Council has committed to retaining the library and registrar’s office in Whitchurch and is now looking to urgently relocate these services to a new location elsewhere in the town centre. It’s hoped that a temporary home will be found shortly while a long-term location is identified.
Shropshire Council will work closely with Whitchurch Town Council and the town’s councillors throughout this process. Whitchurch Town Council will now itself be undertaking a review to considering its own options.
Unfortunately the Town Council’s plans for the driving centre to use space in the Civic Centre have now been placed on hold.
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for housing and assets, said:
“This is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected news. We knew that there were RAAC issues in the Civic Centre and the inspectors’ findings have confirmed our worst fears. We’ll now consider the best options for the building, with recommendations coming forward very early in the new year.
“I can give local people my reassurance that we will continue to provide library and registry services in the town. We know how important these services are for local people and I look forward to them opening in a new interim home shortly, before moving to their long-term location.”
Peggy Mullock, Tom Biggins, and Gerald Dakin, Shropshire councillors for the Whitchurch area, said:
“We are deeply saddened by this news, but we welcome the council’s commitment to ensure that library and registrar services are maintained within the town. We also welcome the commitment made by the council to respond to the situation in a timely manner with recommendations coming forward early in the new year.”
Speaking on behalf of Whitchurch Town Council, Andy Hall, Mayor, and Mike McDonald, Proper Officer, said:
“This is, of course, a disappointing development following the discovery of RAAC beams within the Civic Centre’s infrastructure several weeks ago, further compounded by the situation with historic asbestos within the building. In the meantime, we will work with our Shropshire Council colleagues to identify and assess the best solutions going forward. We remain confident that prohibiting access to the building at this time is of primary importance for the health and safety of the public and also our staff and councillors, taking into consideration the best advice of specialist engineers.
“However, we also recognise that the Civic Centre sits at the heart of our High Street and is a valued Community Asset, both culturally and economically – this will be at the forefront of our minds as we discuss the next steps in the formulation of proposals to Shropshire Council, our corporate landlord, for consideration early in the New Year. In the meantime, a temporary base for our reception and administrative teams is in the process of being arranged to maintain contact with the general public – by telephone and email in the first instance – and activity continues unaffected in the Sports/Market Hall.
“We look forward to further discussions to bring this uncertainty to a speedy resolution and thank everyone for their ongoing support.”