Probe to discover why glass panel fell from Life Centre

Exterior of Wigan Life Centre, showing the broken glass panel
Exterior of Wigan Life Centre, showing the broken glass panel

The entrance to Wigan’s landmark Life Centre will be re-opened to the public while an investigation takes place into why a glass panel fell 20ft out of the building’s facade.

Local authority bosses have said a “thorough investigation” continues into the safety of the building and temporary measures have been put in place to shore up the structure.

There does seem to be a worrying trend. It’s a new building, we wouldn’t expect this to be happening

Coun Mike Winstanley

The Life Centre has a glass facade facing Believe Square and the large falling pane was part of the top row which shattered before it plummeted into the hub’s library area last week.

Scaffolding is now in place around the entrance area while building contractors conduct a probe into the circumstances leading up to the accident.

Concerns had been voiced that the panel cracked before it fell because of the high 
temperatures experienced in the borough last week.

A previous incident - where a panel from the ceiling fell to the floor - occurred in 2014, also in the summer months.

On that occasion the combined services hub was all but empty as it was a Sunday although this latest incident took place on a busy weekday.

Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for leisure, property and resources, said: “The main entrance of Wigan Life Centre has now re-opened with temporary scaffolding and fencing in place to ensure visitor safety.

“Along with our contractors we are now conducting a full and thorough investigation into the safety of the building and will carry out any necessary steps to make sure the building is safe before it fully re-opens.”

An eye-witness had told the Evening Post that the quick-thinking actions of Life Centre staff averted a fatal accident as they ushered visitors away from the drop-zone once they heard the cracking of the glass as it was still in its frame.

And leader of the council opposition, Coun Mike Winstanley has written to the chief executive Donna Hall to ensure stringent safety measures are in place.

He told the Evening Post he was aware of a further incident at the Life Centre South when a glass panel had come loose from its frame.

He said: “I will be writing to make sure steps are taken to ensure the safety of the public and members of staff.

“There does seem to be a worrying trend. It’s a new building, we wouldn’t expect this to be happening.”

An eye-witness to last week’s incident, who asked not to be named, said: “The panel fell mostly intact, I had a very clear view. It’s falling about 20ft, if someone had been underneath it, it would have killed them.

“The rest of the building is safe, it wouldn’t stop me going back in to use the library. But this isn’t something that should be swept under the carpet.” 
Wigan’s Life Centre was funded through a private finance initiative (PFI) meaning the local authority is locked into a deal to re-pay the costs over a number of years.

Deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt recently revealed the PFI pay-off deal has been re-negotiated with a marked benefit for the cash-strapped town hall.

He said: “Last year the council had the opportunity to investigate the potential to refinance the arrangement with the current PFI portfolio holder.

“The refinancing deal has recently been finalised with an overall benefit to the council of £3.2m over the remaining life of the project.”

He added: “Our budget is reducing and with each year we’re taking out more and more.”