Asbestos threat prompts temporary Shefford school closures

The old Shefford Lower School in Shefford has been demolished

The old Shefford Lower School in Shefford has been demolished - Credit: Archant

The demolition of a Victorian school building has caused outrage in the Shefford community, amid fears of asbestos contamination.

The old Shefford Lower School building

The old Shefford Lower School building - Credit: Archant

Developers knocked down the old Shefford Lower School building on Saturday, forcing the closure of nearby Robert Bloomfield Academy and Shefford Lower School itself for two days.

Richard Barker – who lives in Ampthill Road, just 50 yards from the school – was in his house on Saturday morning when he heard a loud noise.

Mr Barker told the Comet: “I saw a guy with jeans and a top – certainly no protective gear – and he was on a JCB demolishing the school. There was a cloud of dust higher than the school.

“It’s an old school that dates back to Victorian times, but my first thought upon seeing the large cloud of dust was that it must be full of asbestos.

“To have a cloud like that appear is not very nice for parents and children around here – but it could also be very dangerous.

“No-one has told us anything. I am disgusted.”

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The Comet has spoken to a senior Health and Safety Executive employee involved in the case who said: “HSE has no reason to believe there was any asbestos in the dust cloud on Saturday morning.”

Both schools were shut due to concerns about the asbestos risk, but reopened today.

A Central Beds Council spokesman said although the developer had followed “correct procedures” and dealt with the removal and disposal of the “very small amount of asbestos” that was in the building appropriately, they did concede it broke planning rules.

A spokesman said: “The developer did not follow the correct process in respect of planning permission.

“Although the developer was not required to apply for planning permission for the demolition they should have applied to the council for prior notification, which they did not do.

“They should have also provided notification under the building act of intention to carry out demolition, this did not happen either.

“This would have given the council 28 days to review the developers’ proposals, put the necessary conditions in place and inform local residents about the work.”

CBC has confirmed it is investigating and will discuss the planning issues with the developer to consider what action is required from a planning perspective.

Mr Barker added: “A local councillor who lives nearby even went up to the man and asked for the requisite paperwork. The man just laughed and walked away. “They have completely ridden roughshod over the rule that you need 28 days’ notice. It seems they did it on a Saturday so that no-one would notice. “Many parents who live round here attended the school and to see it demolished without even any planning application lodged with the council is not right. “Feelings are running high.”

Shefford Lower School declined to comment. The Comet has contacted the developer but is awaiting a response.