Redevelopment of the Common old tea rooms - asbestos concerns

Residents in Ashtead Common Ward will be aware that Planning Permission was granted recently on the old Engineering Works/Tea Rooms in Woodfield Road, Ashtead (MO/2016/2032). These sit by the railway station facing Ashtead Common.

Despite many objections and concerns regarding the accuracy of the submitted proposals the Council saw fit to agree the application. We understand the existing tenants have been given notice and that demolition is to proceed shortly.

We are also given to understand that aspects of demolition are not planning issues, but it has recently come to light that the majority of the white panels on the building are not render as was submiited in plans, but are in fact of asbestos construction. The Council have stated that "The health impacts of asbestos are not a planning consideration being controlled under separate legislation. However in our decision notice we alerted the applicant to the issue with the following informative:

The applicant is requested to exercise care in the demolition process to ensure the safe removal and disposal of any asbestos material that is found to exist. Further information can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive at :"

The Residents' Association has huge concerns regarding the demolition, removal and disposal of the asbestos, especially as this is a well used public route, adjacent to the railway station and a popular walking route to school. We believe advising the applicant does not go far enough and rigorous controls must be put in place to ensure regulations are being adhered to. The dangers of asbestos dust are well known and the Association is very keen to ensure that the demolition of this building is carried out under strictly controlled circumstances by a registered asbestos removal company and that proper precautions are put in place to ensure no dust or fibres escape to the atmosphere. Air turbulence caused by passing trains could well exacerbate the problem. The site must be left completely contaminant free.

Our concerns have been raised with Independent Councillors Pat Wiltshire and Peter Stanyard, both of whom have experience in this area. Cllr Stanyard is writing to the Developer directly informing him of the possibility of breaking the law if proper precautions are not put in place. The Developer's response will be published here if and when received.

Update 18/8/2017

This is the text of a second email we have received from Mole Valley's Scientific Officer/Contaminated Land

I can confirm I have now received the pre demolition asbestos survey and that this shows the presence of cement based asbestos containing material (ACM) as panels which infill the gaps in the timber frame as identified in my site visit of last week. Chrysotile asbestos embedded in a cement matrix is the lowest risk asbestos material, and as a result the work does not need to be carried out by a licensed contractor. However, the developer advises me that they will be using a licensed contractor to do the work and I have asked him to update me once the contractor has been appointed.

Finally, from my reading of the legislation I do not believe this work is “notifiable” to the HSE but the developer and his surveyor, advise me that the work will be reported to the HSE by way of the online reporting system. I have also notified the HSE of the site and its proposed demolition.

The developer has shown every willingness to meet his obligations. He has appointed a suitable surveyor and has advised us that a suitable specialist contractor will be appointed. The site could well be out of specific regulatory controls due to the material being of a low risk nature but under Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 the developer has the obligation to remove the asbestos before demolition, in order to minimise release of asbestos to the environment.

The site has been reported to the HSE, and in the unlikely event that demolition occurs in an uncontrolled manner then any one concerned by the work should be advised to report the site using the online HSE reporting form.

and the HSE advisory team are also available on 0300 003 1747

In addition we understand that Network Rail are also involved and they have confirmed no demolition will take place until they have seen the Asbestos Removal Cotractor's plans and Risk Assessment and are satisfied with the recommendations and planned actions within these documents.

It seems now all interested parties are fully aware of the concerns originally expressed by the Residents' Association and whilst perhaps being cynical one wonders how much monitoring would have taken place and Risk Assessment carried out had the Association and Cllr. Wiltshire not become involved.

Asbestos related diseases are awful and sometimes do not materialise for many years after inhalation of dust and fibres.