Removing asbestos from Arena will cost £250,000

St Albans Arena Theatre behind two thin green trees on a sunny day

The Alban Arena, St Albans - Credit: Google Maps

Removing asbestos from the Alban Arena will cost almost £250,000, the district council has revealed.

The closure of the city centre venue led to the cancellation of last Christmas' pantomime, as well as the postponement of all events in January and February.

SADC is expecting work to be completed towards the end of February, but no re-opening date has yet been decided.

The council has outlined the steps taken prior and following the closure in a report prepared ahead of a meeting of its public realm committee next week.

The report said no concerns about asbestos had been raised during the council’s last inspection in January 2021, but during an unrelated condition survey in December, the surveyor found dust below some known encapsulated asbestos and recommended additional tests take place.

Following tests of the dust samples on December 13, the results found the presence of asbestos contamination in four of seven samples, leading to the initial cancellation of some performances before a decision was made to remove the asbestos entirely.

An independent analysis of air quality in December did not detect asbestos in the air, but after detecting the presence of asbestos contamination on stage equipment, the council withdrew the stage and auditorium from use to avoid further disturbance.

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Despite removing the asbestos from the section of building being the more costly option in the short term, officers said there is longer-term value for money from the decision.

The report said: “The removal of the asbestos rather than encapsulating it is more costly as a one-off cost, however, this approach avoids further costs being incurred for the asbestos removal at a later date and will negate the risk of the same scenario occurring again in the same area of the building. 

“There are fixed costs such as the required scaffolding and air monitoring which would be incurred in either scenario so there is longer-term value for money in the removal option.”

The report confirms the total cost of the works is expected to be “in the region of £237,000” which will be paid for from a fund earmarked for repairs and maintenance and from the general fund maintenance budget. 

The repairs will not require any additional budget for this financial year. However, as unspent funds in the reserve each year are put towards the council’s compliance programme, officers have warned “additional pressure will be put” on next year’s programme as a result.

The council concluded it was “fortunate” the asbestos was picked up when it was, and the council took “swift remedial action and works continue”.

The report added: “The exact date the asset will be handed back to [the Arena’s operators] 1Life remains unknown at the time of writing but is estimated to be towards the end of February. 

“There is further work required to understand the loss of income and financial implications associated with the closure.”

Councillors will discuss the report and closure of the Arena during the public realm committee meeting on Tuesday, February 1.

At the time of the closure, SADC said there was no public health risk, and confirmed the closure “has nothing to do with” recently announced proposals to redevelop the area.