Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Wiring at West Park

The Russians in the Main Hall the day after
One member of the West Park Campaign Group has been trawling: 

The current discussions about West Park's future within Leeds City Council are largely being informed by an 'Options Appraisal' report which has been produced by Asset Management. You can read this document here:

At the heart of this document is a list of five possible future options for the building - retention, part retention / part demolition, total demolition + newbuild on the site, total demolition + decant users elsewhere, total demolition + smaller newbuild for community use - and projected costs for each. These costs are largely based on a report from a company called Arup.

Arup are one of Leeds City Council's "technical advice" partners. The firm itself is a multinational consultancy which has worked on illustrious projects including the Gherkin, the London Eye, Angel of the North, High Speed 1 rail link and Sydney Opera House. You can read their report here:

The report is largely a review of Leeds City Council's own building condition survey from 2009, with additional comments based on a limited visual inspection of the building following the closure in November 2012. The main point on which they diverge from the Council's report (which you can read at is the question of costings. Arup's costings for 'backlog maintenance' on the building are uniformly about double the Council's own estimates. This is the source of the alleged £1million worth of work that will be needed to make the building viable again.

Where do Arup's figures come from? They are not a firm of electrical contractors, gas fitters, plumbers or builders - indeed, they caveat the figures themselves in the report ("the authors of this report are neither quantity nor building surveyors ... it is beyond the scope of this report to provide firm costs"). There is no question of Arup themselves actually doing this work. Have the Council gone to an electrician, gas fitter, plumber or builder to get quotes and establish a realistic cost for the work that needs to be done? No. Have they waved the £1m figure around like it's gospel and not a wild estimate? Erm, yes.

Meanwhile, these peculiarly inflated costings are being bandied around the official Council documents that are informing the debate about the building's future amongst officers and elected representatives. They are the figures that make it into the local press - £1m needed to repair West Park, says the Evening Post ( What are they actually based on? No one knows.

Incidentally, the Arup report proposes that all of the electrical wiring in the building is obsolete/dangerous and in need of urgent replacement. It ignores the fact that many parts of the building (the main hall, the entire classroom block stretching from the hall to the Gordon Parry Centre , the Gordon Parry Centre itself, the ArtForms instrument store) have been partially or even fully rewired in either the 2000s or 1990s. It is not in dispute that the overall system (and in particular much of the central switchgear) is in need of modernisation - but why do they also want to replace the bits that are OK? The 2009 report, on the other hand, seems to look at each room on a case-by-case basis. Wonder why they've decided to drop that approach now?

A final point. Elsewhere in Leeds, work is currently underway on the renovation of the Grafton Learning Centre, another old school building (admittedly smaller than West Park) that has been allowed to get into a bad way. Total cost for LCC Electrical Services to do a complete rewire, including new burglar alarm system and emergency lighting? Just south of £60,000. Bit more thrifty than the £549,000 that Arup is quoting for the same job at West Park, then.

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