Danger in the lion’s den

Lottie Young 15 November 2007

Lion Yard shopping centre is being examined by structural engineers after one of its major walls was discovered to be in danger of collapse.

Safety alerts were raised after surveyors found cracks in the brick work, along with signs that the wall was now virtually free-standing. Upon further investigation, surveyors also found that an external concrete staircase used as a fire escape had not been properly tied to the main structure of the building. The cracking has been blamed on the refurbishment work currently being undertaken on the old library.

These breaches of health and safety regulations could cost the council up to £400,000 – the figure touted as necessary to rebuild the wall. But the discovery could cause costs to mount on other projects in the area. Due to the delay, the refurbishment project could reach the £1 million mark.

Council spokesman Glen Thwaites admitted it could prove difficult to meet these costs: “It could end up costing in the region of £1 million, and we ourselves will fund this initially – but we are having discussions with the landlords of the Lion Yard, and with our insurers to see how it can be covered.”

The massive wall is three storeys high, rising as high as four storeys in some places, and is 60 metres long. It faces onto the newly renovated Fisher Square and one side of the Corn Exchange.

The Lion Yard area is frequented around the clock by students, office workers and shoppers. It also plays host to a vibrant nightlife, due to clubbers visiting Soul Tree.

The damaged wall and staircase have now been secured whilst investigations are undertaken to determine the cause of the cracks and to ensure that the rest of the shopping complex is safe.

Christmas shoppers will breathe a sigh of relief to hear that the managers of the centre are keen to reassure the public that the building is safe and that trading will continue as normal.

Lottie Young