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Ruin rides again

A novel scheme is allowing a disused Wolverhampton warehouse to become an equestrian centre in Ireland. Kate Sleep discovers what's involved

A REDUNDANT building, about to be demolished by one owner, can be a cheap construction solution for another. But dismantling and transporting the structure to a new site can lead to cost savings for both parties.

This is a situation that has evolved on developer THI's leisure project at the Low Level Station site in Wolverhampton.

THI plans to build a cinema, leisure and amusement complex - a 'family entertainment' centre - on the site. 'Family entertainment' is a US concept that many leisure developers, including THI, hope will spread to the UK.

The complex is expected to incorporate part of the disused listed railway station, which was originally Wolverhampton's main station and lies at a lower level than the new one.

At the site, contractor Demolition & General has just started taking down a huge disused cash-and-carry warehouse piece by piece before it is transported to Ireland to be reconstructed at an equestrian centre.

The large span steel-framed build-ing makes it ideal for equestrian use since the structure offers large areas free from obstruction for stabling, storage and training arenas.

Demolition & General is sub contracted to building firm HBG Higgs & Hill which is overseeing the dismantling and other demolition work on the site. The extent of this has not yet been finalised and the construction contract has also yet to be awarded.

However, the contractor is in a strong position to scoop the contract since it has worked in partnership with THI for the last five years. The HBG company is currently working on THI developments at Bolton, Leeds, Luton Sheffield and is about to start another job in Shrewsbury.

HBG Higgs & Hill is hopeful it can nego-tiate and start the £20 million main contract by late next year. The complex is set to open by Christmas 1999.

A successfully completed demolition phase will certainly not harm HBG Higgs & Hill's working relationship with THI, which also has huge plans for schemes at Dartford, Chatham Maritime, both in Kent as well as schemes in Scotland, Liverpool and Camberley.

Taking down the warehouse is the unique first phase of the project. The new owner wants the steel structure and its doors, but the asbestos cladding panels are of no use and will be disposed of under controlled conditions.

Scissor lifts will be brought in to clip the bolts and release the cladding. To prevent asbestos dust the cladding panels will not be cut and as an added precaution they will be sprayed with water during the operation. The panels will then be sealed into containers and taken off site immediately, to be disposed of safely.

Once the structure is in skeleton form, mobile cranes will lift the unbolted steel sections and load them onto a lorry, which will take them to the port for shipping.

The structure will then set sail for Ireland.

THI has owned the Wolverhampton site for some time, but has only recently decided to start work there. John Boyce, business development manager for HBG Higgs & Hill, explains: 'The firm completed other projects first because they were easier to get off the ground,' he says. 'But recently the leisure market has moved up a gear.'

Outline planning has been granted by the Black Country Development Corporation.

The complex is expected to incorporate part of station but the design has yet to be finalised

by Birmingham-based architect Geoffrey Reid Associates.