The Royal & Derngate building will be closed until the end of September, with all performances postponed, following the “unfortunate discovery” of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete – RAAC.
A statement published by the Royal & Derngate this evening (September 4) reads: “Due to the unfortunate discovery of RAA Concrete in our buildings, Royal & Derngate is temporarily closed.
“During this closure period, entry to the building is prohibited, and all performances and events during September at Royal & Derngate are being postponed.
“Northampton Filmhouse is now also temporarily closed.
“Box Office will contact ticket holders for all affected events in the coming days.
“We ask for your patience during this time, and we will be reopening as soon as we can.”
This information has come to light following a new approach by the government in managing RAAC.
The material is described by the Department for Education as a “lightweight form of concrete” but is made in a way that makes it “much weaker” than traditional concrete, says the Standing Committee on Structural Safety.
The Department for Education has been providing guidance and funding to manage the potential risks of RAAC since 2018, but new cases have made them “less confident” that buildings containing the material should remain open without extra safety measures in place.
The main concern for the government has been educational settings – with one school in the town so far, Northampton International Academy, that has had to close part of its building so a survey can be carried out to determine if RAAC is in its roof.
A comment issued to this newspaper by Jonathan Nunn, leader of West Northamptonshire Council, following the news of NIA and the Derngate said: “We have been assessing our buildings for the potential presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) since 12 July, as concerns about the material increased.
“Since the Government’s announcement last week about the heightened dangers of this material in buildings, we have accelerated that process.
“Whilst liaising with the Department for Education (DfE), we have been made aware that Northampton International Academy could be impacted, and we will be supporting the school to ensure it does all it can to continue providing education in a safe and effective way.
“We have also become aware that Royal & Derngate is affected and, as the building’s landlord, we are investigating the extent of this.
“In the meantime, the theatre is not able to welcome audiences under the current guidance. We know this will be very disappointing for those who have tickets for upcoming shows.
“Public safety is our first concern, and we must take action where there is any risk to that. We will move as quickly as we can to determine the scale of work required to help get these buildings back into operation and we are asking for everyone’s patience while we carry out this vital work.”
Following the news of the discovery of RAAC in buildings, The Department for Education’s X account has provided background on the matter and said: “In cases as recent as August, buildings containing the material have failed unexpectedly, requiring decisive action in order to keep staff and pupils safe.”