Fire repair bill to run into millions

MILLIONS of pounds will have to be spent to repair a leisure centre that was badly damaged by a major blaze.Engineers have now been able to gain access to Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre following Monday's fire and described the damage to the building's roof as "very extensive".

MILLIONS of pounds will have to be spent to repair a leisure centre that was badly damaged by a major blaze.

Engineers have now been able to gain access to Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre following Monday's fire and described the damage to the building's roof as "very extensive".

Council officials – who had already spent about £1million on the centre and planned to pump millions more into improvement work – said "all options are open" regarding the repair programme, with a complete refurbishment possible if the interior of the building needs gutting.

Terry Clements, portfolio holder for leisure and sport on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns the leisure centre, said: "There is very extensive damage on site and obviously we need engineers to have a closer look at it before we decide what we are going to do next.

"It is easy for people to look on the black side, but like everything in St Edmundsbury, we are going to treat this as an opportunity."

He added: "We have to take a long-term view on this and discuss things such as if we had really got the facilities we wanted there anyway. The whole of the inside may need gutting and I do not believe any option will be closed to us.

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"Bury St Edmunds is still growing and we are going to need a better sports centre. Now we could end up with a hi-tech one which would probably be more in keeping with today's needs."

The fire broke out in the roof area at about 4.30pm on Monday when between 40 and 50 men, women and children were using the centre.

At its height, 10 crews and about 60 firefighters from across the county were drafted in to tackle the blaze and fought against strong winds to quickly bring the flames under control.

Relief crews remained on site throughout Monday night and until about 2pm yesterday to monitor the building.

The cause of the blaze is still being investigation and Suffolk Deputy Chief Fire Officer Ken Seager praised the actions of firefighters for preventing further damage to the leisure centre.

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