PHL Chairman's statement to the Court
5th April 2016
A Thames Water main pipe burst at the north end of Noble Street adjacent to the entrance to Plaisterers' Hall sometime after the premises were routinely checked, locked and secured on the evening of Thursday 24th March 2016.
The water cascaded down the side of our Jubilee Garden by and under the fire escape and firstly flooded the patio area and then broke over the threshold of the double doors at the end of The Great Hall flooding the entire ground floor area. Rob Pegg, the Hall Manager, discovered this when going into The Hall on Good Friday morning by which time the water was about 4 inches deep throughout the venue. Despite quick thinking, including opening drain covers and manholes to allow the water to run away, the damage was already done, not helped by the fact Thames Water were unable to effectively stop the water until 5pm on Friday evening.
The Hall management team came in to support and acted swiftly rescuing what they could. A specialist company was engaged immediately, whose expertise assisted in decision making and in removing over the next 48 hours all the furniture, tables and chairs and moving them off the premises. The portraits and all the paintings were all moved upstairs to the Court Room and have since been put in safe storage. Our electrical contractors worked into the night (even getting our wholesale suppliers to open specially) to install auxiliary power so that we could run dehumidifiers to save our precious plasterwork. The main power, because of the water ingress, for safety had be disconnected and locked off as soon as the flood was discovered. The 1 London Wall on-site maintenance company also assisted greatly whenever required.
The carpet was so saturated that within hours was shrinking and smelling, it could not be saved and has been cut up and removed from site. The concrete floor beneath the carpet is saturated and causing some concern, our Landlords through JLL have had structural engineers in to inspect it. Nothing further can be established until it is fully dried out. The wooden skirting boards and bottom of the doors are damaged or ruined and the service lift and disabled lift shafts both flooded causing mechanical damage. Our new AV systems have been damaged particularly the sub base speakers in both corners of the Hall which where situated on the floor. The speakers will have to be tested and certified safe to operate. I am gravely concerned about the 23 miles of cables and wiring that runs underneath The Great Hall. Some housed in galvanised casements, others in plastic, they were underwater for over 48 hours and then were damp for days afterwards.
So, further inspection, tests and major decisions will be necessary over the coming weeks as the effected trays dry as out. The prognosis to date is that it is going to be impossible to offer any guarantees that corrosion or damage will not occur in the future after the carpet is relayed. The induction loop is embedded in the cement floor and again, although housed in plastic, there is no way to see any damage without removing it all.
The kitchen area, although underwater, seems to be intact and the equipment undamaged. Create's assessor confirmed that all their equipment seems in good condition and probably will not require replacing. The kitchen floor, which is designed to get wet and is only glued down at the edges, to date, seems to be unaffected.
Meetings have been held with Create at directorship level. The Create Team worked through the Easter weekend relocating firstly a wedding that was due to be in the Hall on the Sunday are continuing to relocate 42 planned and paid for events scheduled at the Hall in the coming weeks. They have pledged their full support for us and are keen to return as our events partners just as soon as the hall is fit for purpose. Even the events manager at Plaisterers' Hall was to be found in Wellington boots giving great assistance.
PHL carries insurance for reconstruction works caused by flooding, loss of revenue, loss of business and for the additional costs involved in hiring other venues for our own functions, the dinner a Stationers' Hall for example. They (our insurers) intend to recover the losses from Thames Water. Loss adjusters visited the Hall initially and now do so on a regular basis and meetings with them are on-going and discussions by nature of the claim have to be live and fluid because damage is being discovered all the time, for example the door panels are showing signs of warping as they dry.
We do believe the piano survived but probably now needs tuning, it is now off site in safe storage.
This has to be considered a disaster and one of the more challenging events in our history, our main asset that means so much to our members and is key to our financial stability is down but is certainly not out. Livery business must continue as PHL repairs rebuilds and refits the Hall. We must show a united front as far as The City and beyond is concerned and quietly get on with building our business back up. We must squash Chinese whispers of the type I heard last week saying that Plaisterers' Hall will struggle to get back on its feet because parts of it were under 3ft of water??
For the first few days the concentration was on minimising short and long term damage and taking the necessary actions to protect the property, its contents and the fabric of the building. Many trade and specialist contractor reports are now being written up by those who will be involved in the rebuilding process, these will be studied, compiled and collated. The drying out process continues to be a top priority and then a building schedule of works can be written up and a refit plan put in place. We have changed the status of Plaisterers' Hall from a Livery Hall and Event Venue to a designated "Building Site" which means all the statuary regulations that entails along with the additional Health and Safety that needs implementing and it is being strictly enforced. This is how it will remain until all the works have been completed and commissioned and the Hall and all the facilities are fit for purpose again.
Thought is also being given to ways in which we can protect the Hall should a mains burst happen again. This could entail work to the Jubilee Garden which will require permissions from the City of London Corporation.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank Hall Manager Rob Pegg for going above and beyond the call of duty in working all over Easter and assisting greatly in getting us to where we are today. Lee White has been exceptional throughout and Mark Lee and the ML Securities team and all the contractors that have supported us so well also need our unreserved thanks. We are all aware of the additional work load and unforeseen challenges that will fall upon us to overcome in the ensuing months.
My initial shock and dismay has now turned into a resolve to repair and return our Hall to its former glory in the best possible time to the best possible standards to allow The Hall to bring in the revenues expected by the Directors and Shareholders, to allow the Livery to come back home and enjoy the splendour of their Livery and allow Create to return and build the business back up and continue the success they have enjoyed being our events partner at No 1 London Wall.
I will continue to update by this medium anything which is newsworthy and advise relevant progress.