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Epsom Downs Racecourse roof damaged once again in high winds
A huge roof at Epsom Downs Racecourse has been damaged once again by high winds, strewing aluminium and insulation across the area.
The deeply embarrassing incident, which occurred during Monday's storm, comes almost exactly two years after "freak winds" tore off part of the roof of the Duchess's Stand on January 3, 2012.
Following that incident the managing director of the racecourse, Rupert Trevelyan said he had demanded a ‘guarantee’ from contractors that it will never happen again.
The stand is only four years old, having been opened by the Duchess of Cornwall in April 2009 as part of a £38 million development.
According to website Epsom Weather, the strongest gust recorded at its West Ewell weather station on Christmas Eve was 47.9 miles an hour- just beyond the wind speed the roof, whose aluminium skin is no thicker than a credit card, was originally built to withstand.
Dennis Skinner, who spotted the damage while out walking on Christmas Eve, said parts of the roof of the Duchess’s Stand had been peeled off.
Mr Skinner said: "Despite promises from the racecourse that it would never happen again, it has, and as before, the Downs is strewn with fibreglass in the trees and bushes and over a large area of the golf course.
"Also strewn about are pieces of aluminium cladding and blocks of insulating foam."
Mr Skinner said the damage was not as severe as two years ago, but parts of the roof could be seen "sticking up". He said: "Obviously the wind got underneath it and pushed it back."
No one was available to comment at the racecourse today and there was no information on its website about the incident or the impact it would have on activities at the site.
The only tweet it put out this week was to wish everyone a merry Christmas on Christmas Day.
An employee at its sister racecourse, Sandown Park, confirmed that there had been damage at Epsom Downs Racecourse but did not know anything else.
In 2012 debris falling from the roof caused road closures, and insulation material was spread for several miles across the Downs.
External contractors and staff at the racecourse worked together to clean up the area.
Three tower cranes had to be brought in to repair the damage so the stand could be brought back into full use.
A report compiled by independent consultants concluded that the roof failed because of freak winds.
Contractors Wilmott Dixon, who oversaw the construction of Duchess Stand and the repairs, said the material covering the roof is commonly used on large buildings around the country.
A spokesman said it was designed to withstand winds of 47mph and was designed to comply with regulations taking into consideration location, exposure, height of building, shape and size.
However, the winds at the time that it failed were gusting at 60mph, and a weather expert said that such speeds could be expected in the area every 5 to 10 years, particularly in such an exposed spot as the Downs.
A month after the incident Mr Trevelyan said: "We are replacing the roof in a robust way that will be guaranteed by engineers who will do the calculations and make sure everything is correct. What the report shows is there was a freak gust of wind that caused it."
Epsom Council’s planning inspectors, compiled their own report into what happened and advised the racecourse on what it should do in terms of repairs.
Four months later, in April 2012, strong winds stuck the racecourse again, blowing over horse saddling boxes before the Investec spring meeting, and triggering another investigation.
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