Bury St Edmunds: Fire fears over new Apex facility

COUNCIL chiefs face restrictions over the way they can use the foyer in their landmark entertainment venue after it was flagged up as a potential fire hazard.

The recently-opened �18.6million Apex building in the former Cattle Market site in Bury St Edmunds has already hosted 18 events and enjoyed �78,000 in ticket sales.

But despite granting the complex a fire certificate, firefighters have now raised concerns over the foyer of the St Edmundsbury Borough Council-run building because it is the only escape route.

In a letter to the council from Suffolk County Fire and Rescue Service, a spokesman for the authority said: “The design of the Apex does not provide an alternative escape route from the upper levels of the auditorium and all persons have to descend the stairs to leave the building via the front doors in the foyer.

“An uncontrolled fire in the foyer has the potential to prevent escape from the upper levels of the auditorium.”

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As a result, the fire service has demanded strict limits on where items and loads can be put in the foyer.

Some have warned this might affect the types of organisations which hire the venue because they would not be able to set up stalls in the foyer.

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David Nettleton, independent group leader, said: “It is a matter of concern for everyone.

“Let’s hope the fire service and the borough council can sort this out to everybody’s satisfaction.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The fire service signed off the building as safe for use so we were delighted to open the doors and have staged many hugely successful events so far.

“We are in the middle of our ‘sound check season’ so are focusing on getting the acoustics right in the auditorium, which is what the building was primarily designed for.

“Once we’re confident about all those aspects, we will move on to how we can use the foyer.

“We will work with the fire service and architects to see how we can make best use of it, but at the moment making sure thousands of people enjoy the Apex each week is our priority.”

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