Dartford: Theatre suspends shows amid unsafe concrete fears

A theatre in Kent has suspended all performances with immediate effect due to fears over dangerous concrete.

Built in 1983, The Orchard Theatre in Dartford used reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

Dartford Borough Council leader Jeremy Kite said the safety of audiences, staff and artists was its priority.

The government previously announced that all schools with RAAC without safety measures in place would have to close or partially close.

A statement released by the council and Trafalgar Theatres said the theatre was one of thousands of public buildings to use RAAC during construction.

A survey carried out in April by specialist consultants reported that defects in the RAAC panels in the theatre's roof were "not significant".

'A blow'

The council said it began planning to replace the panels in the "medium to long term" in line with the consultant's advice.

But a routine inspection on Monday resulted in the consultant recommending to close until further surveys could be carried out and a solution identified.

Mr Kite said: "Although any closure is a blow, we are in the fortunate position to have the resources and determination to put the building right and reopen it for the benefit of residents.

"Both Dartford Borough Council and Trafalgar Theatres are committed to making the necessary adaptations required as soon as possible to allow performances to recommence.

"We, and our partners at Trafalgar Theatres, know this will cause inconvenience and disappointment, but the safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority."

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Performances at the theatre are initially suspended until the end of September to allow further investigations to take place.

Trafalgar Theatres chief executive Helen Enright said: "Once the time frames become clearer, we will update customers as to the status of the future programme and would like to reassure customers that their money is safe.

"We will be contacting existing ticket holders to reschedule performances or to reimburse them."

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