Northern Ireland

Belfast MAC: Almost '£1m needed for MAC repair', MLAs are told

Problems with the basalt cladding were first noticed at the end of 2014
Image caption Problems with the basalt cladding were first noticed at the end of 2014

Almost £1m of public money will be needed to repair the facade of the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) in Belfast, MLAs have been told.

A letter from a Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) official to a Stormont committee puts the exact cost of the repairs at £938,731.

The Arts Council has asked for extra money from DCAL to pay for the work.

MLAs were also told that an aluminium panel had fallen from the roof of the building on Friday.

However, a spokesperson for the MAC said it remained open for business as usual.

Problems with the cladding on the MAC's exterior were first noticed at the end of 2014, and netting was put on the building to prevent any risk to users and pedestrians in St Anne's Square.

Scaffolding was then erected on the building in November 2015.

At that time the culture, arts and leisure committee was told that the repair work would cost around £600,000.

However, the letter from DCAL now says that: "the MAC has calculated costs of undertaking work, including replacement of the stone facade and sought approval and support for these from the arts council".

"A business case has been approved which sets out costs totalling £938,731," it adds.

The letter also says that the MAC has engaged a firm of solicitors to investigate liability for the repairs, but that "the process identifying and/or pursuing liability is likely to be lengthy".

Image caption A spokesperson for the MAC said it remained open for business as usual

It further says that an aluminium panel fell off the roof of the building during high winds on Friday 29 January and was blown into St Anne's Square.

"No-one was injured and MAC took immediate action to inspect and secure the roof."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was informed of the incident.

'Concerns'

MLAs on the culture, arts and leisure committee expressed concern at the cost of the repairs.

NI21 MLA Basil McCrea questioned why public money was being used to pay the bill for the repairs.

"There is a discussion about who is liable, and if it wasn't urgent you wouldn't pay it now," he said.

"But with the big winds last week, and other concerns, you have to make sure that this building is safe."

A spokesperson for the MAC said: "We acknowledge and welcome the approval of the business case which will help us to provide a full and final solution to this issue, and we will continue to work with ACNI (Arts Council of Northern Ireland) and DCAL to complete the necessary works.

"In the meantime the MAC remains open for business as usual as we come out of a very busy Christmas period and look towards an exciting 2016."

The building opened in 2012, and cost more than £17m.

More on this story