THE potential for future events to be held on the seafront roof area, above Marine Parade in Lyme Regis, has been called into question, over fears that new glass panelling is not safe.
The flat roof area above SWIM, the Antiques & Craft Centre and the Amusement Arcade was completely resurfaced last year costing £650,000 – the council’s most expensive capital project since the renovation of the seafront shelters.
The work was considered essential to prevent water from leaking into the council-owned commercial buildings below.
The project also included the installation of balustrade made from strengthened glass along the edge of the roof, but it was only in place for a few months before one of the panels was smashed.
The incident occurred in 2020 when a member of the town council’s gardening staff was mowing grass in Lister Gardens and a small stone was thrown up by the mower and hit the glass, with a small amount of shattered glass falling onto a family outside the Amusement Arcade below.
An investigation into the specification of the glass balustrade was launched and the council was told that the toughened glass panels were of a suitable specification for the location, but in this instance the panel had not behaved as expected.
Councillors have now been asked to consider how they would like to use the flat roof area in the future, with suggestions including events such as food festivals, concerts and open air cinemas – as have been held in the past – as well as creating a pop-up, seasonal or permanent open-air restaurant or bar.
They have also been asked whether they would like to allow vehicles to access the area or gazebos and marquees to be erected.
‘Wildly differing views’ on how seafront roof should be used
Council officers had been asked to create a management plan for the area, but said they found this difficult as members has “wildly differing views” on the matter and they returned for more guidance at last week’s Town Management & Highways Committee.
But one councillor argued that they had to address the issue of the glass safety before making any decisions on how the area should be used.
Cllr David Sarson said: “I don’t often get very agitated but I personally very strongly object to any of the options listed. I do not believe we should hold any event on the roof, nor should we consider any request for a permanent restaurant, bar, theatre, cinema, etc. I shudder at the thought.
“We need with some urgency an agreed solution to protect the glazing and consider out options for what we can safely put on the roof. There is no mention of glass on the agenda at all.
“I do still strongly believe that if the architect of glazing manufacturer chose a toughened and laminated glass for this location, we would not have had to go down this path. Laminated and toughened glass panels were installed quite extensively behind the Langmoor and Lister rooms a few years ago.”
Committee chairman John Broom argued that there was “no such thing” as laminated and toughened glass – that this was two separate types of glass – but Cllr Sarson, who had a 20-year career in the glass industry, insisted that it was possible to connect the two with an interlay.
He continued: “As we know toughened and laminated glass has an interlay; if breakages occur the glass particles adhere to the laminate interlay, which keeps the glass in situ in its frame and will not shatter into small particles.
“There are levels of risk to be considered when choosing a glass specification. I believe the level that of risk to be taken into consideration regarding the consequence of glass shattering and falling over 20 feet on to a very busy footfall below, is of upmost importance.
“It is, of course, our responsibility to protect the public. I hope not but I believe we’ll have more episodes of glass panels shattering if we propose using the roof area for outside events, unless we come upon with an agreed solution to protect the glazing.
“I cannot imagine the effect any future glass breakages would have on our town council if this happens.”
Cllr Sarson asked for officers to bring forward constructive proposals to protect the glass panels before councillors considered how to use the flat roof area.
‘It frightens me to death’, says mayor
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, said: “The main concern for me is not necessarily the damage to the glass but the effect it could have if it falls on to the level beneath.
“When you have the SWIM restaurant, in particular, with people eating outside and tables and benches beneath, it frightens me to death there could be glass falling on these people.”
He said for this reason he was definitely against the use of vehicles, trailers or horse boxes on the roof area.
The mayor also raised some previously-expressed concerns that the area was being used regularly for skateboarding and playing ball games, which could damage the glass or see items fall over the edge onto Marine Parade below.
However, he was told there were no bylaws preventing such activities taking place on the roof.
Cllr Rob Smith said he would be concerned that potential fuel spills from vehicles or generators would damage the new surface of the area, and questioned how gazebos and marquees could be fastened down without damaging the roof.
Cllr Kelsey Ellis also agreed that vehicles should not be permitted on the roof, but she supported the area being used for events such as concerts, theatre performances and open-air cinema nights.
Officers will now go back and give further consideration to a management plan for the flat roof area, taking into consideration councillors’ comments and concerns, in particular, about the safety of the glass.