Library closed as a result of potentially dangerous crumbling concrete

Other public buildings including three police stations, nine universities and 14 fire stations across Scotland are also affected.

Edinburgh’s Blackhall Library closed as a result of potentially dangerous RAAC concrete Edinburgh Council

An Edinburgh library has been closed as a result of potentially dangerous concrete.

On Wednesday, the council announced that Blackhall Library would close from Thursday September 14 until inspections have been carried out to establish the extent of the issue and what remedial work is required.

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is a lightweight construction material that was used in the construction of some public buildings between the 1950s and 1990s.

The concrete can be susceptible to failure when exposed to moisture and as a result the UK Government has issued guidance to organisations across the UK to carry out building checks where RAAC may have been used.

The council is contacting library users to advise of the closure and “actively looking” at where in the local community activities can be moved to.

Council leader Cammy Day said: “An initial survey of Blackhall Library has unfortunately identified the presence of RAAC, so we’ve taken the decision to temporarily close the building while we carry out more detailed inspections.

“We’re contacting users to let them know and are actively looking at where we can relocate activities in the local community.

“I know people will be disappointed about the temporary closure but it’s the right step to take until we know the extent of the issue and what remedial work may be needed.

“Dealing with the impact of RAAC comes at a significant, and growing, cost and I’ve written to both the UK and Scottish Government this week seeking assurances that this will be fully funded.

“We’ll continue to publish updates on our website.”

It comes after a high school in Moray announce it would also close on Thursday and Friday after the potentially dangerous concrete was discovered.

Almost 40 schools across Scotland have been found to have RAAC.

Other public buildings including three police stations, nine universities and 14 fire stations are also affected.

On Wednesday, Motherwell Concert Hall and Theatre was closed after the discovery and as a result, all performances of Grease the Musical due to take place at the venue were cancelled.

The same day, Police Scotland’s chief financial officer James Gray told a Holyrood committee it is “not economically viable” to carry out repair work, which is estimated to cost more than £4m

He said Police Scotland is now looking to start a consultation on “exiting” Fettes – which was the headquarters of the former Lothian and Borders force.

He told how the force checked for the concrete across its entire estate in April “when we identified some crumbling Raac in the Fettes workshop as part of a routine repair”.

Mr Gray told MSPs on the Criminal Justice Committee the substance had also been found in the force’s Baluniefield premises in Dundee, with repairs estimated to cost £1.25m, and in a boiler room at a Police Scotland building in Perth.

Mr Gray stressed: “There is no risk to anybody working in these sites, we have removed people from the affected locations and we have put emergency pillars in place and safety nets to ensure there is no debris falling from these roofs.

“Given the age and condition of Fettes, which has been under-invested in for many decades, it is not economically viable to make those repairs, and we are looking to go to the police authority next week to get permission to start a consultation on exiting Fettes and relocating elsewhere in Edinburgh.”

Ross Haggart, the chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), told the committee Raac had been found in 14 stations, with the concrete used “in the construction of our roofs”.

He said: “This is a problem we have been aware of since 2019 and while we have got mitigation measures in place, permanent solutions are required because they are key locations for us to operate from across Scotland.”

An SFRS submission to the committee did not disclose the stations where Raac has been found, but described them as “key stations within our network”.

Adding that Raac has a “risk of roof collapse as the concrete ages”, the paper said the service has “taken remedial actions to protect firefighters in those stations”.

But it added: “Without permanent improvements or rebuilds, neither we nor our partners who share many of those facilities with us, or the communities who also make use of our buildings, will be able to do so safely in the future.”

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