Asbestos found in at least 55 council-owned properties in Brentwood and Maldon

Asbestos has been found in at least 55 council-owned properties in Essex, most of which are open to the public, research has revealed.

A survey conducted by the Labour Research Department (LDR) and commissioned by the Trades Union Congress found 38 buildings in Maldon and 17 in Brentwood still contained asbestos, despite the building material being banned in the UK.

The buildings excluded schools and houses but did include other buildings open to the public, including leisure centres, burial ground chapels and Brentwood town hall, according to the survey.

Maldon and Brentwood district councils said plans were in place to manage asbestos and there was no risk to anyone while it remained undisturbed.

Councillor Penny Channer (Con, Mayland), Leader of Maldon District Council said in a statement: “All of the properties for which we have direct responsibility have been inspected by a specialist contractor, samples taken and analysed, and a management plan put in place.

“This plan includes annual inspections to check that there has been no material change to the condition of the asbestos to ensure they pose no risk to members of the public who use them. Although the specialist inspections were some years ago, unless the asbestos becomes damaged, there is no risk to anyone.”

“In line with The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, we will only remove the asbestos if there is a need to do so, such as it has been damaged or we are undertaking other repairs. We continue to monitor these sites on an annual basis, and we will shortly be engaging a specialist contractor to undertake a further inspection in due course.”

A Brentwood Borough Council spokesperson said: “The council takes its responsibilities around the management of asbestos extremely seriously to ensure residents and building users are safe and protected from risk. We have a robust process in place for undertaking Asbestos Management Surveys of all our buildings on a regular schedule basis using suitably accredited and qualified specialist contractors.

“Steps are taken to remove asbestos from buildings whenever possible, however in certain circumstances this simply isn’t possible due to the location of the asbestos containing materials within the fabric of the building. In these circumstances the specific area or item is identified and either encapsulated in non-asbestos material to prevent accidental damage or clearly labelled to highlight the risk to contractors.

“Where asbestos materials are in good condition and are in a place where they are unlikely to be disturbed, then they are not harmful. To ensure the safety of contractors when carrying out works, Asbestos Management Surveys are reviewed before works take place on a building and areas of risk are raised with the contractor so they can take the necessary precautions for their workers safety. 

“Public and commercial areas of buildings have all been reviewed to ensure there is no risk to the public or general users and those areas that do have materials containing asbestos within them are monitored on an ongoing process to ensure they are not disturbed.”

The survey, which was conducted between July-October 2021 and published on May 13 2022, sampled councils in England and found 2,690 premises had asbestos in them across 31 local authorities.

Maldon and Brentwood councils were among those who provided lists of buildings to the LRD.

In Brentwood, it found 13 of the buildings were open to the public, including burial ground chapels, the town hall, community halls, leisure centres, operational depots, a plant nursery used by a charity, a public car park and public changing rooms at playing fields.

The published report said the 38 buildings in Maldon “mostly” had public access, but for some the duty to inspect lies with the leisure-management company or leaseholder. 

Asbestos is a fibrous material previously used in construction and inhaling it can lead to serious lung conditions including lung cancer and Mesothelioma.

It was banned in 1999, but it can still be present in older buildings built or refurbished before then.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, it kills around 5000 workers each year.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter