Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre will be shut for the rest of the day and likely tomorrow after fire filled much of the building with thick black smoke this morning.

The fire, which is thought to have started from a faulty light in a staff room behind the sports entrance reception, started at around 8.50am, forcing the evacuation of the building. The majority of evacuees were gym members and staff.

Four crews dealt with the fire and cleared smoke from the building by 11am. An investigation team is still on site.

The cause was accidental, a Herts Fire Service spokesman said.

Stevenage Leisure Ltd has closed the building to the public today and “most likely” tomorrow, with sporting, conference and theatre activities cancelled.