Council sorry for Cube problems

CORBY Council has apologised for the overspend at the town’s Cube in the wake of a leaked report which says the building has dangerous design flaws.

Faults identified in the report include a lack of fire safety features in the basement and a staircase capable of carrying 400 people leading to a door not wide enough to allow enough people to exit safely in an evacuation.

And senior building control officer Martin Anderson said a spiral staircase in the building was such a safety concern that anyone falling down it could break bones or be killed.

A report commissioned by Corby Council was given to councillors in January and has not been made public until it was leaked.

Changes which have had to be made to correct safety issues have roughly halved the building’s planned capacity to a maximum of 1,533 people.

Acting chief executive Norman Stronach has apologised for the overspend, but took issue with the safety concerns.

He said: “The building has cost more than we said at the outset and I apologise for the additional cost. But we still have a magnificent building that will serve Corby well into the future.

“There is not a safety issue with the building, certainly in respect of fire safety. The expectation was that we have built to accommodate 1,560 people and accommodate them safely. Day-to-day we can monitor use and we have never got near 1,200.”

Speaking about the spiral staircase, Mr Stronach said: “Any feature of the building is a safety concern. We have made adaptations to make it compliant and if we have to make more, then that is what we will do.”

In the report, Mr Anderson also said he didn’t believe the building would ever comply with safety regulations.

But Mr Stronach said: “That is too definite. Ultimately we are looking for a building that has a Building Control Completion Certificate. It is not unusual for that sign-off to come some time after completion of the building.”

The report also suggests architects Hawkins Brown were to blame for some of the problems.

Mr Stronach said: “We are unhappy with certain aspects of the building design and finish. We wanted to bring all of these issues into one report, consider the report and consider what action we would take.”

A draft version of the report has been compiled for public release, and recommendations in it could be acted on following July’s full council meeting.

Council leader Tom Beattie said: “We are aware of design faults with the Cube and are working to rectify them. In a week when the UK has slipped into a double dip recession and hundreds here in Corby are losing their jobs, this is a sideshow.

“Cuts which hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our community are the things that keep me awake at night and are where I am concentrating my efforts.”

Conservative group leader Cllr David Sims said: “The report makes it very clear that the Cube board was aware of design problems back in 2006 and the question is, why did they not intervene at that point? There needs to be accountability.”