Sand Centre auditorium, Cumberland Council, p Cumberland Council

The auditorium of the Events Centre at The Sands in Carlisle is the only part of the building with the lightweight concrete. Credit: via Cumberland Council

Cumberland appoints contractor for Sands Centre RAAC works 

Cubby Construction has been picked to replace the roof of the venue’s 1980s auditorium after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete was found in a survey last year. 

Cumberland Council closed the Sands Centre in October after RAAC, which is prone to sudden catastrophic collapse if damaged, was discovered.

“Now that we have identified a contractor, we will get things moving and make the essential investment in one of the region’s premier entertainment venues,” said Cllr Mark Fryer, Leader of Cumberland Council. 

Mitigating steps to allow The Sands Centre to continue hosting events for a temporary period were ruled out as the advice received was not to use this part of the building. 

The council will now work with Carlisle-based Cubby to finalise a design and programme to undertake the works. It is anticipated that this next stage will be finalised by the spring. 

Tommy Cubby, managing director, Cubby Construction, added: “Embarking on this significant project to replace the Sands Centre RAAC roof underscores our commitment to ensuring the safety and modernisation of one of the region’s premier entertainment venues.  

“At Cubby Construction, we are honoured to be entrusted by Cumberland Council to carry out this vital task. Our dedication to quality craftsmanship and timely delivery will be the cornerstone of this endeavour, ensuring a seamless transition for The Sands Centre.” 

Funding for the project has already been secured from within existing council budgets. The costs and timeframes will be confirmed once the final design work has been completed. 

“Based upon the findings of the independent structural assessment and the engineer’s recommendations, we needed to take action to ensure the safe use of the auditorium,” Fryer said. 

“We have accelerated our plans to replace the RAAC roof as we need to protect the safety of the public whilst also providing the investment opportunity to modernise the overall experience when attending events at The Sands Centre.” 

A £27m project to modernise the Sands Centre completed in November and consisted of a new-build 40,000 sq ft leisure centre. The new-build element is unaffected by the RAAC discovery and continues to operate as normal. 

RAAC has been found in public buildings throughout the country. Its limited lifespan has led to delays for openings of multiple schools in the North West. The presence of RAAC was also one of the reasons the government signed on to reconstruct Leighton Hospital in Cheshire.

In Blackpool, the discovery of RAAC resulted in the sudden closure of the town’s Magistrate’s Court in November. The Ministry of Justice has now announced that the facility will not reopen leaving Blackpool without a court until the planned new-build facility on Devonshire Road completes in 2026.

Last year, Place North West and Robertson Group hosted a roundtable discussion about how the industry is rising to the RAAC crisis. Watch the video.

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