Alban Arena Temporary Closure - Q&A
Answers to questions about the recent temporary closure of the Alban Arena.
Last updated: 22/12/2021
Why has the Alban Arena been closed?
The Alban Arena had to be closed on Thursday 16 December so that the Council (which owns the theatre) could deal with an asbestos-related situation.
A building condition survey in December, undertaken as part of the planning to re-tender our leisure contract, recommended a number of additional technical tests. The Council therefore had some samples taken for testing.
Results received on Thursday 16 December indicated the presence of asbestos contamination. The Council closed off the area, cancelling the pantomime performance that evening, and subsequently, for a longer period.
(Note: The Council has employed an independent environmental analyst to carry out air quality monitoring. The results came back as below the limit of detection in all samples taken. This means there is no perceived public health risk.)
Did the Council know there was asbestos at the Alban Arena, and is the Council managing the asbestos at the Alban Arena responsibly?
Yes. The Alban Arena building contains asbestos, much like most buildings of this age, including schools and hospitals. The Council and 1Life (which runs the theatre) were aware of the presence of the asbestos and the Council and our contractors have been managing it for decades.
The asbestos management plan for the building details the various asbestos containing materials present in the building and how these should be managed.
1Life undertakes regular inspections and the Council has an annual asbestos condition survey completed via a specialist firm. This was last done in January 2021. The professional advice then was to continue to monitor the condition of the asbestos and not to disturb it. No cause for concern was raised.
The Council is working with RSK Asbestos (UKAS accredited asbestos consultancy) and Asbestos Essentials (HSE Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractor). We have been thorough in our approach to managing the asbestos over many years, and have picked up on, and investigated, this matter correctly.
How long will the Alban Arena be closed and will the pantomime resume?
Significant works are needed to the affected area, which is in a hard to get at spot.
We do not know exactly when the Alban Arena will reopen but it could be some weeks, and pantomime performances will not resume.
What will happen about Alban Arena pantomime tickets?
1Life is working to contact all pantomime ticket holders to explain that all performances have had to be cancelled.
If you have pantomime tickets, the 1Life team will be in contact to discuss your options as soon as possible. As you can imagine, they are exceptionally busy contacting people. Please be patient – they will be in contact as soon as possible.
Why was the Council undertaking a building condition survey in December?
The Council had commissioned some building surveys as part of the end of the current leisure contract and associated re-tender. These were unrelated to the asbestos, but during an inspection some further technical tests were recommended.
Are people at risk?
The Council employed an independent environmental analyst to carry out air quality monitoring. The results came back as below the limit of detection in all samples taken. This means there is no perceived public health risk.
What happens next?
The Council is working with our contractor on a programme of works. This will allow us to understand the duration of any works and the probable costs involved.
The focus of the works we are doing is to the stage area where there is asbestos insulation that has been disturbed.
The location of the affected asbestos means a scaffold is required and we will need to encapsulate the area with air handling and specialist equipment.
The removal and decontamination is notifiable to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which requires that we wait 14 days from when they’re notified before the work can start. This requires detailed plans, risk assessments and method statements to be produced and submitted to the HSE. These are being prepared.
Is the Council definitely planning to reopen the Alban Arena?
Yes. We plan to reopen the Alban Arena as soon as we can.
Is the closure anything to do with recent proposals to redevelop the Alban Arena to provide a new cultural centre nearby?
No. This situation came about because the Council was undertaking a routine building condition survey as part of the end of the current leisure contract and associated re-tender. It has nothing to do with outline proposals discussed recently to redevelop the area and provide a new cultural centre.