'Urgent investigation' over asbestos concerns amid major works on Stevenage flat blocks
PUBLISHED: 08:28 30 January 2020
Concerns asbestos has been drilled into as part of a major revamp of Stevenage council flats - a project which is leaving leaseholders facing estimated bills of £20,000 plus - saw the town's MP and council leader hotfooting it to a resident's home to investigate.
Stevenage Borough Council's Major Refurbishment Contract includes all 550 low and medium-rise flat blocks in the town.
It could include roof replacements and structural repairs, with an average estimated bill of about £14,000 per flat for leaseholders.
The works are causing widespread financial concerns among leaseholders, but there are also concerns about the standard of work. For instance, pipework frames front doors and is not securely fixed to walls, and now there are concerns workmen have drilled into asbestos without taking appropriate precautions.
The use of asbestos is banned in many countries because exposure to it can cause several cancers and diseases.
Council leader Sharon Taylor and Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland separately visited affected Matt Endersby's home as soon as the asbestos concerns were raised last week.
Matt, an electrician, said: "The contractor told us it's asbestos, and there are at least four blocks affected. The holes should have been drilled by a licensed contractor and the area shut off and afterwards cleaned. They're ripping the roof off as a result. Who is paying for it? Taxpayers?"
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Chris Pomroy, another resident affected, added: "The contractors' work has fallen far short of any reasonable level of expectation."
Mr McPartland said: "It is shocking. They have drilled into asbestos ceilings and it has exposed the workmen, children and residents to it.
"It is clear the council is not keeping a grip on the contractors and has only a high level view of what is happening on the ground. People are terrified and being bullied by the council.
"Matt is a qualified electrician and can see how poor the works are from a professional point of view.
"The works are also only supposed to replace systems that don't work, but it is clear they are replacing lighting and wiring that is fully functional.
"The council is causing a lot of misery."
Councillor Jeannette Thomas, executive member for housing at SBC, said: "I am aware of the cases involving the residents who have concerns about asbestos outside their homes. The council is currently investigating their complaints as a matter of urgency.
"Tests by a qualified independent analyst took place on the same day the council was informed of the asbestos and the results show the stairwell area is safe. Our council takes health and safety seriously and will continue to do so with all of our works programmes."