A £200M SHOPPING complex in Bournemouth is being closed indefinetlely after continuing safety problems with its car parking structure this week triggered a major hunt for possible lapses in quality management.
The 3,000 space car park at the 64,000m 2 Castlepoint complex is a two level facility, with a single elevated deck constructed almost entirely from precast concrete.
Tenants include Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Asda and B&Q, plus 40 other retailers that are expected to put in massive claims for lost business during the Christmas shopping period.
Castlepoint's design and build contractor Kier subcontracted the £6.1M precast concrete works to Amec subsidiary CV Buchan as a design and construct contract. CV Buchan in turn employed Hyder as its designer.
Problems are said to have started shortly after the complex opened in 2003.
In May this year, security guards are reported to have found a large chunk of concrete that had fallen from the upper car park deck. The lower car park was closed for three weeks while temporary remedial works were carried out.
Monitoring equipment was installed, and it was the readings from this equipment that triggered the latest closure, according to a Castlepoint management team spokesman.
One local engineer who has been using the car park since it opened told NCE that catch netting had been fi xed under all main beams to stop spalling concrete damaging cars below.
He said many main beams had diagonal spalling at their ends. Some had been strengthened with pairs of vertical stainless steel bolts installed at their ends; others had been jacked up and supported on temporary trestles. These suggest a significant lack of shear reinforcement in the beams.
This week, contractors had installed massive props in the lower car park to support the upper level.
Although Hyder was responsible for the design, it is unclear who was responsibile for checking the precast element production.
hose directly involved refused to comment on the cause of the problem. Kier declined to name its structural engineering consultant. Castlepoint said it had employed Arup as its consultant.
Instead it attempted to play down the signifi ance of the car park problem by saying 'it was not aware of any material change in the condition of the structure' to justify the closure decision.
Local councillors were due to meet to discuss the closure as NCE went to press.
There are local concerns that Castlepoint was opened to the public before the issue of a building regulations certificate.
But in a statement, Bournemouth Borough Council head of planning and transport Mike Holmes said: 'The developer has not yet asked for a certificate and consequently one hasn't been issued.
'This is normal when work is ongoing on site. There is no planning law that requires a building control certificate before opening, and therefore the council has no power to prevent use of the car park.' Holmes added: 'Detailed inspection of precast concrete components manufactured off site was not possible. Foundations were checked and found to be satisfactory, and the superstructure appeared to accord with the details received.' Developer of the site is a joint venture between Standard Life Investments, Castlemore Securities and Threadneedle Investment Properties acting on behalf of Eagle Star Life Insurance.