Swift action to remove asbestos from basements of a housing estate in Westminster has begun after a review carried out by Westminster City Council.
Following the transfer of CityWest Homes – the council’s former arm’s length management organisation – to Westminster City Council on 1 April this year, the health and safety team began to review all paperwork relating to asbestos.
It very quickly discovered a number of reports from June 2018 which identified asbestos in the basements of 16 buildings across the Churchill Gardens Estate, but incomplete records on what action had since been taken. These basements, which were restricted from public access, were immediately sealed and tested, and all other basements on that estate were re-checked. Following these additional checks, results show that asbestos is present in 22 basements.
Asbestos experts will remove or properly cover the materials, before carrying out a full environmental cleanse.
Expert advice published by the Health and Safety Executive is clear that many cases of inadvertent, short-term exposure to asbestos will most likely have led to minimal exposure to fibres, with little likelihood of any long-term ill health effects.
It is common for buildings built before 2000 to have asbestos, and it only carries a risk if disturbed. This risk is specific to the basements only where asbestos was found to be disturbed – no other parts of the estate are affected.
An investigation into how the initial reports were handled by CityWest Homes has also been launched by Westminster City Council and senior managers who worked at CityWest Homes at the time are being written to.
Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council cabinet member for housing services, said: “I’m disappointed to discover CityWest Homes may not have acted on reports of asbestos, although the risk to residents is extremely low.
“This issue should have been dealt with properly at the time, so I have ordered an investigation into what has happened and will take action where necessary, including writing to former senior managers.
“I want to reassure our residents, staff and contractors that we are and will do everything we can to resolve this situation quickly and keep them informed, providing support as necessary.
“This latest situation shows we were right to bring CityWest Homes back into the council, so that we can provide our residents with the housing services they deserve.”
The remediation works in the basements across Churchill Gardens Estate are expected to start in the coming months and will not have any impact on the planned major works commencing in the summer.
In addition, as a purely precautionary measure, the asbestos surveys for communal spaces in council housing are being re-done across Westminster.
Any residents with question or concerns can phone 0800 358 3783 for dedicated help from health and safety experts. Further information is also online at www.westminster.gov.uk/yourhousing/asbestos.