Study to see whether Fort’s roof stays up or comes down

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A LANDMARK that many Islanders see on a daily basis is currently undergoing a structural assessment to see if it should be kept or not.

Fort Regent’s iconic white roof and rotunda is the subject of a study, which will be combined with other government reports about the building’s electrical, plumbing and other systems, to inform a ‘public and political conversation about its future’.

In December, the current Council of Ministers put the previous government’s ‘Future Fort’ plans on hold, which included ideas for a hotel, cinema, conference centre, bowling alley and casino.

It has, however, continued with the Inspiring Active Places Strategy to remove sport from the Fort. However, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet told a Scrutiny panel recently that he would not rule out some sports returning in the future.

Deputy Binet said: ‘When we came into office, we were presented with a report which cost £250,000 proposing all manner of things, none of which were feasible. There was another proposal that we carry out another report this year and I said, “I’m sorry: we’re not going to do that’’.’

He added: ‘Instead what I thought we’d do is find out what we are actually dealing with. What state is the building in and what needs to be done to make it wind and watertight? Is it actually viable to repair it?

‘Until you know what you’re dealing with, it is very difficult to know what to put inside it. I am not in a hurry to see lots of taxpayers’ money get squandered on bright ideas on what the private and public sector might do there. We have enough skills in-house and previous reports to come up with a plan, once we know the condition of the building.

‘I would not rule out some sport going back there.’

Giving an operational update, Infrastructure and Environment chief officer Andy Scate said: ‘We are carrying out a structural assessment of the roof at the moment. We have had several previous thoughts on the Fort – some have been to keep the roof; the most recent ones have been not to keep the roof.

‘We want to make sure that before we make that decision, we know exactly what the structural integrity of the roof is now. It is many decades old.

‘Once we have the structural assessment, we will marry it up with other condition surveys that we have across the building. We know that the electrical and plumbing systems are very old and complex. We have asbestos. We have leaking roofs. We have an aging fabric.

‘Once we have that base information, there will be a political and public conversation about how much investment we are willing to bear to keep the Fort going.’

However, he stressed that the building was safe.

‘We have to actively manage the building, and most of our property spend goes into managing health and safety issues, not making the facility better. Yes, it is safe, but it needs constant attention.’

He added: ‘It is clear that the public still want the Fort to be a covered indoor space for entertainment or events.

‘We have to understand that it will need significant investment. The challenge we have is how much do we invest and who invests, because the public purse doesn’t have enough on its own.’

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