Orchard Theatre in Dartford to Reopen After Approval of Roof Replacement Plans

Plans approved to replace roof of the Orchard Theatre in Dartford

The Orchard Theatre in Dartford is one step closer to reopening its doors to the public after being forced to shut down due to safety concerns with its roof.

In September, the theatre was closed with “immediate effect” after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was discovered in its roof. This material, often used as a cheap alternative in post-war buildings, has been found to crumble and potentially collapse as the buildings age.

Following a nationwide audit of public buildings, the Orchard Theatre was among several locations found to have this hazardous material. As a result, the theatre has remained closed in accordance with national guidance.

The theatre, which has been entertaining audiences since 1983, has now received approval for plans to replace its roof. The proposed design includes swapping out the RAAC-affected planks for a new steel metal deck of the same thickness. This will require an increase in depth to meet the acoustic requirements of the auditorium space below. The plan also includes installing solar panels on the roof and making necessary updates to guard rails and door access.

The council estimates the theatre will reopen in September of this year, with a budget allocation of approximately £7 million to cover the cost of removing the RAAC planks and returning the building back to use. In the meantime, a temporary theatre has been set up just 300 metres away in Hythe Street, known as Orchard West, which has been entertaining audiences since December.

Dartford council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite expressed his excitement for the theatre’s reopening, stating that it will once again become the “beating heart” of the town. He also praised the success and popularity of Orchard West, which has helped to keep jobs alive during the closure of the original theatre.

With plans approved and work underway, the Orchard Theatre in Dartford is on track to resume its role as a beloved community hub and cultural center.

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