MORE than 25 charities and local organisations have been locked out of a Southampton office block after it was deemed unsafe.

The groups using Duke’s Keep were told after Christmas that they were unable to gain entry to the Marsh Lane tower block.

Now managers say work needed to make the building safe is likely to cost upwards of £100,000.

But it means charities, artists and one of the city’s biggest homeless organisations have been left without premises as the management company tries to get owners of the building – understood to be the London-based Freshwater Group – to pay for the repairs.

Chief executive Julie Ion of Milton Keynes-based Centric Community Projects – which has turned 350 empty buildings around the UK into free or discounted space for charities and non-profit organisations – said she is “heartbroken” for the groups using the block.

She was told by the owner’s agents, CBRE, that the building had failed a routine five-year safety check.

Ms Ion said she had not been told exactly why the building was unsafe.

She said: “It’s devastating. “We let out spaces either for free or massively discounted.

“We are crying out for space and are approaching landlords all the time.

“There are only two floors of Duke’s Keep that aren’t being used.

“It was free to tenants for two years and we have only recently started charging.

“We have got between 23 and 28 organisations there including Society of St James who use it for storage.”

Ms Ion said she was asking the building’s owners to carry out the work “urgently” but added: “It’s going to cost a colossal amount of money to fix. It’s not going to be anything below £100k.”

Ms Ion said she had been unable to talk directly to the building’s owners but was having to negotiate via the agents and, as yet, had been unable to find when, or if, the work would be carried out.

Groups using the building say they are still being charged for services – despite not having been told why they are locked out.

One Duke’s Keep tenant said: “It has been closed to all tenants since the start of the new year. No info or notice given – Centric who manage the building have yet to give any reasons for this.

“Whilst it’s free to charities to be a tenant, some of us are paying for a phone line and internet etc which we can no longer use.”

They added: “It is a bit bizarre that it requires an organisation based in Milton Keynes to administrate an empty space.”

Southampton could make more of what it already has and our “administrators” should be able to. Or is that wishful thinking? As far as critical mass there are so many spaces. Most streets seem to continue to struggle with ever increasing rates versus ever decreasing trade versus online etc etc. How many more studies local and national does there need to be to make it a priority?”

As previously reported last year Southampton City Council, Arts Council England, Southampton and Solent universities paid for a £5,000 report aimed at helping artists find spaces for artists to work and exhibit.

Southampton Cultural Trust also produced a legal document which they said would make it easier for landlords and artists to work together.

Figures released by Southampton City Council show there are currently 989 empty buildings in the city - but say they are unable to tell how long a building has been vacant for. Of the 989 buildings currently listed as empty a spokesperson for Southampton City Council said: “We don’t have a way of extracting historic data so we we’re unable to provide details of which properties were empty this time last year.”