FIRE safety fears have been raised after 21 stores in The Brunel arcade were left without a functioning sprinkler system.

The Brunel has revealed that part of one of the three chambers in the system has been affected by a leak, meaning the part of the building nearest Canal Walk is not served, although the fire alarm is in full working order.

The problem, which started some days ago, is expected to be fixed by Thursday at the latest while staff wait for a replacement part to be delivered and installed.

Customer Sarah Henderson, who highlighted the issue in an email to the Adver, said: “I go to a salon in the Brunel Centre and whilst there one of the security guards came in and asked the staff, and I quote, ‘Everything okay? Not on fire?’ and then left when they said there was no fire.

“When I asked why he said that, they told me that security have been coming in this week every two hours, as the sprinkler systems are not working.

“The staff said that they now wonder if the system has been inactive for longer than they know about, and also when they might be fixed, as this has not been mentioned. They are led to believe it’s the entire system for the centre, not just their salon.

“The staff were pretty annoyed as they pay a separate insurance to the centre for such things as the fire safety and are still paying their premiums.

“For me, the biggest worry is the fact that if there was a serious fire in the centre the lack of sprinklers could have devastating consequences for the public – and also for local businesses if their units or stock was damaged or destroyed and they find their insurance invalid due to such an issue.”

Andy Wynn, the manager of The Brunel centre, said: “There is currently a leak in one section of our sprinkler system in The Brunel, which will be repaired very soon.

“The fire alarm system is in full working order and should a fire occur, the alarms would sound immediately and staff and shoppers would be evacuated quickly and safely. The temporary closure of part of the sprinkler system does not put anyone at risk at any time.

“During this period, we have also put a fire watch system in place, which is standard procedure in shopping centres.”

Staff at Aqua-G hair salon said the problem may have been going on for about a week, and that centre staff had visited every two hours to check everything was okay.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service was unable to comment yesterday.