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Whittaker Hall Heating Update

Earlier this year, St James’s main hall heating suffered a catastrophic failure. The hall has an underfloor heating system that has been in place for nearly 30 years. In October we noticed that it had started leaking water at an alarming rate, and with the help of a local specialist, discovered that many of the fittings had become badly corroded. As most of the system is under the floor, with no access, we conducted pressure tests and secured costings to replace the corroded fittings we could easily reach. Unfortunately, the pressure test did show there was still a leak in the system somewhere, and with the cost of replacing the corroded fittings extremely high, we started to look for a contingency plan.

The only two options open to us, were to either close the hall and cancel all events this winter so that we could dig up the floor, or put in a temporary system whilst we undertook research into a replacement, secured planning permission and cleared it with our landlords. With so much money required to fix what we had, we decided to install a temporary system, and give us time to properly research a replacement. The only temporary system possible for internal use is electric fans, and we invested several thousand pounds in new heaters and the wiring required to run them. We have been limited on the size of heater we can use, by the electric available to us from the local grid, and this means they are slight smaller than would be ideal. The industrial fan heaters are also quite noisy, require special handling and can’t be left on when no ones in the building, meaning they can’t be run during performances and need to be looked after by St James staff. So we have been putting them on before performances for several hours, with staff remaining in the building.

The current situation is far from ideal, and with such a large hall, it is very difficult to heat, and keep warm. But with such a lot of money required to fix or replace the system, we need to make the right decision. A specialist is already working on what would be the best solution, and we will update you as soon as we have further information.

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