Fire safety concerns voiced over �18million flagship venue

FIRE chiefs last night told of their public safety fears over a landmark �18.5million performance venue due to open later this year.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service says the new Apex building in Bury St Edmunds is “particularly challenging” in terms of fire safety because of its design.

The Apex – which is set to cost St Edmundsbury Borough Council almost double the original �9.5million budget – already has 58 confirmed events planned before the end of 2010.

Senior Fire Safety Officer Kevin Burton wrote to the council to object to the granting of a premises licence for The Apex because the fire service is yet to be convinced that there is an adequate fire management plan in place.

Speaking to the EADT yesterday, Mr Burton said the fire service would continue to liaise with the council and to monitor the situation closely, including carrying out an inspection of the building when it is opened.

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“They’ve not yet satisfied us that the management of fire safety is up to scratch.

“They are also yet to formulate a document to show us they understand the complexity of the building (in fire safety terms).

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“We’ve raised our concerns. We will continue to enforce our regulations and we will be assessing it (the building) when it opens.”

Explaining why The Apex posed particular challenges in terms of fire safety, Mr Burton said: “It is not an off-the-shelf building. As a result, the design has never been tested and it has never been tried.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The premises licence granted to The Apex by the council is conditional on the concerns of the fire service being met.

“As with any new building, it is natural that we will need to have careful discussions with the fire service about the fire management plan, and this was fully discussed at the licensing sub-committee.

“We are fully confident in the design of the building, having taken extensive advice from external experts, but we also fully accept that the fire service needs to satisfy itself that the building is safe and properly managed.

“Therefore we have been working closely with them, and as soon as we can get into the building, we will be able to agree how we will manage the building working to the fire safety management plan.

“All new venues take bookings before fire safety certificates are issued, otherwise they would have nothing to offer customers when they open their doors. The Olympic Stadium has something important planned for 2012, and it’s a long way from being ‘signed off’ by the fire service.”

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