Ray of hope for fire-hit sports centre

By Benedict O'ConnorENGINEERS have said the fire that ravaged a sports centre has not caused as much damage as they had feared.A major blaze broke out at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre last month and although the repair bill could still run into millions of pounds, the building could be saved from demolition.

By Benedict O'Connor

ENGINEERS have said the fire that ravaged a sports centre has not caused as much damage as they had feared.

A major blaze broke out at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre last month and although the repair bill could still run into millions of pounds, the building could be saved from demolition.

Council bosses have cautiously welcomed the news, but have still not ruled out knocking the building down and starting afresh for the second time in the sports centre's history - it was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1980.


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St Edmundsbury Borough Council's sport and leisure portfolio holder, Terry Clements, said the initial structural investigations were more positive than had been anticipated, but there were still many things to consider.

“Everything is being considered and nothing is being ruled out. We have to look at finance, we have to consider a lot of different aspects of the thing and there are a lot of considerations to take into account before anything is decided,” he added.

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“The fire looked really bad at first, but the structural engineers have had a good look round and they say it's not as bad as it had looked, there isn't as much fire damage, although there is a lot of water damage.”

Mr Clements said it might be that when the building is assessed, it could prove to be past the point where the benefits of repair outweighed those of rebuilding it.

He added: “We still have to look at what can be saved and there are still safety aspects to consider. It seems clear that the fire started in the plant room above the pool as we thought.

“People are saying we should do this and we should do that, but they don't have the knowledge of the building or the expertise to really say what we should be doing.

“Basically, at this stage it is too early to say what will happen. We will study the structural engineers' full report and then things will move forward in due course, there's no point rushing into anything without properly considering it first.”

Meanwhile, a gym company has apologised for some of its staff who turned up at the blaze and handed out leaflets to people in the hope of attracting new members.

Leisure centre staff watching their own building burn were shocked and distressed by the actions of Fitness First employees.

A spokesman for Fitness First said: “We recognise that local staff acted inappropriately by distributing leaflets at the Bury Leisure Centre.

“Fitness First regrets any distress this misplaced enthusiasm by some of our staff may have unintentionally caused.”

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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