Council acknowledges there is asbestos in flats but offers further assurance that there is no risk

  Posted: 23.02.21 at 18:50 by The Editor

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DESPITE assurances from Thurrock Council and portfolio holder for housing Cllr Barry Johnson, some residents of high rise blocks in Grays remain concerned about the presence of asbestos in the buildings.

Borough MP Jackie Doyle-Price has been contacted by some residents and she too has questioned the council and received assurances that the buildings are safe.

So too has Grays Riverside ward councillor Jane Pothecary.

In particular concern has been raised about Davall House, which was subject to an anonymous leafleting campaign carrying a warning about asbestos dangers. Cllr Johnson condemned this as ‘deplorable and disgusting.

In response to the residents and the elected members' queries Carol Hinvest, the council's assistant director of housing, has reaffirmed her conviction that there are no issues that residents should be worried about.

She says: “The raw material of asbestos was widely used in multiple building products up to 2000 in the United Kingdom and therefore can be found in any building constructed before this date including residential properties.

“Asbestos fibres are found in multiple products located throughout a building structure. As you have identified this can sometimes be found in bitumen products such as padding to the underside of sinks, roofing felts, damp proof courses, gutter linings and coatings to concrete products such as the floor structure in Davall House.

“The presence of asbestos is not consistent therefore. It is not possible to identify the presence of asbestos without undertaking specific location sample testing of which Thurrock Council does undertake where required, prior to undertaking any building works.

“The council appoints sufficiently competent contractors to ensure all operatives are able to identify building products that may contain asbestos to ensure it is not disturbed during works.

“Under the council’s tenancy agreements, all tenants are required to seek approval from the council prior to undertaking any intrusive work in their property, this measure allows the council to advise residents on the potential presence of asbestos and what actions they need to take in regards to this, depending on the nature of works that they are looking to undertake.

“Leaseholders should also seek approval from the building owner prior to undertaking any intrusive or destructive works, again this allows the Council to provide advice depending on the proposed works. However, it is also the leaseholder’s responsibility to appoint sufficiently competent companies when looking to undertake works in their home to ensure that they have the required skills, knowledge and experience to be able to identify asbestos containing products so they do not unknowingly damage this.

“Asbestos is still very common, placed in a large percentage of buildings across the UK and indeed the world. lt poses no risk to residents unless damaged to a point where fibres are released. The council manages asbestos within the housing portfolio in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

“ln regards to the external wall system on the blocks, previous publications issued by the council provide details of the system, however I have noted that you continue to draw comparison to the tragic events at Grenfell.

“As confirmed previously, the system that is in place on Davall House and the eight other blocks within the borough is in no way comparable to the system that was in place on the Grenfell tower either by material or installation method.

“You will also be aware from section 20 notices and other communications that the system that is in place on Davall House and the other blocks, that has now been on the blocks for over 20 years, has reached the end of it technical life expectancy and replacement of the wall system, windows and roof are going to be commencing on site within the next two months. The works package across the nine tower blocks will span 18 months, and we can confirm that Davall House forms part of the first phase.

“Thurrock Council have complied with the government’s requirements on checking the wall systems to the blocks and we are continuously reviewing our approach with the Essex Country Fire and Rescue Service to manage our buildings safely. As stated the replacement of the external wall system is being undertaken due to its age and previous failure of the fixing mechanism, the design life of the previous remediation undertaken around 2012 has also now surpassed its design life, therefore as outlined above, the system’s technical life expectancy has expired.

“To this end, the Council has taken the decision not to recover money from leaseholders associated to the upgrading of the external wall system. This is due to the failure of the current system.

“However, the applicable leaseholders will still be required to pay for the replacement of the windows, roof and other associated works as set out within the details of the section 20 notice issued.

“I trust the above provides clarity on the issues raised within your enquiry.”

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