We understand you may have some questions regarding asbestos. We have put together the below FAQs to help answer them.
First and foremost, we want to assure you that you and your family are safe within your home managed by Westminster City Council.
If you have concerns please contact us on 0800 358 3783 where we will answer your queries and if required, we will be able to arrange a meeting for you with our health and safety team. You can also find out more below and submit queries online now, using the form to the right of this page.
Since taking housing services back in-house we are moving quickly to ensure you receive the best possible housing service. We are committed to putting you first and thank you for your co-operation with our ongoing work to ensure your safety.
- What is asbestos? (click to expand)
Asbestos is a general name given to several naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Asbestos fibres do not dissolve in water or evaporate, they are resistant to heat, fire, chemical and biological degradation and are mechanically strong.
The properties of asbestos made it an ideal material for use in a number of products, including insulation material for buildings, boilers and pipes; car brakes and floor tiles, insulating board to protect buildings and ships against fire; asbestos cement for roofing sheets and pipes.
Due to the risks to health following inhalation exposure to asbestos the importation of blue and brown asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1985. This ban was extended to include white asbestos in 1999.
Asbestos may be present in any house or building built before the year 2000 as it was widely used in a variety of building materials.
- How could I have been exposed to asbestos?
People may come into contact with asbestos from existing asbestos-containing materials in buildings and products. If they are intact, they pose very little risk. However, if asbestos-containing products are damaged or disturbed in some way, fibres may be released.
- If I am exposed to asbestos, how might it affect my health?
If you believe you may have been exposed to asbestos you will be understandably anxious and concerned about the possible health implications. Many cases of 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 [Information taken from the Health & Safety Executive website]. If you are concerned about possible exposure to asbestos, you are advised to consult your GP.
- Does my home have asbestos containing materials?
There is a fair probability that you may have asbestos containing materials in your home, if your home was built prior to 2000.
As long as those asbestos containing materials are sealed and in good condition and are left undamaged, there is no risk of exposure.
These materials only pose a hazard where the materials are damaged or disturbed, leading to a release of fine dust that contains asbestos fibres.
Under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012, the Council is responsible for managing asbestos in communal areas and when contractors are working in a tenant’s home to carry out repairs, maintenance and/or improvement works. This includes works carried out when a property becomes empty (or void) prior to a new tenant moving in.
Westminster City Council is not responsible for regularly checking individual properties, however, where works are carried out in a tenant’s home, an asbestos survey should either be available or commissioned prior to works commencing to ensure that any risks are managed.
- I’m worried I have damaged asbestos containing materials in my home. What do I do?
If you are concerned as to whether or not you have damaged asbestos materials in your home, please contact us on 0800 358 3783 and we will arrange for an asbestos surveyor to visit your property to assess your concerns.
- I would like to have a copy of an asbestos survey for my home. Can I receive a copy?
Under current health and safety regulations, Westminster City Council only hold asbestos surveys for the communal areas and those dwellings which have become void or where contractors have worked within a tenant’s home. If you would like a copy of the asbestos survey for your home, please call us on 0800 358 3783 or submit a query using the function to the right of this page.. If we have a copy, we will gladly provide it to you.
- If a contractor identifies asbestos containing materials within my home, will it be removed?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that asbestos materials in good condition are considered safe unless asbestos fibres have become airborne, which happens when materials become damaged. Asbestos that is in good condition, can be left where it is, providing an effective management plan is in place.
There are two different ways in which asbestos can be treated. It can be encapsulated (i.e. left in place but covered with a protective barrier to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure) or removed (or abated). The advantage of asbestos removal is that you do not have to deal with it again after it is professionally removed. The disadvantage is that this can take more time to resolve and can be very expensive.
A risk assessment will be carried out to determine the best cause of action in all cases and will take into account a variety of factors (i.e. location of asbestos containing material, type of property etc).
- I am a leaseholder, how do I find out whether or not my home contains asbestos?
As a leaseholder, you are responsible for the asbestos within your home. To identify if you have asbestos containing materials within your property, firstly refer to your purchase records. You may have been supplied with an asbestos survey when you purchased your property. As an alternative, if you’d commissioned your own survey as part of your due diligence when purchasing your property, your survey should contain all the information you need.
If you do not have any of the above information, you will need to commission your own asbestos survey. For guidance on selecting an asbestos surveyor, visit the ukas website (opens new window). If you’d like any advice, please call us on 0800 358 3783 submit a query using the function to the right of this page..
Public Health England does not recommend the removal of asbestos without advice.
- I am a leaseholder. Can I work on, clean or remove asbestos from my home myself?
You must undertake any removal of asbestos containing materials using a very specific methodology. For guidance on how to remove such materials safely, please visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials (opens new window).
If you are looking to remove any other type of asbestos containing material, legally you will need to use a licensed asbestos removal contractor. For further information, please visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials (opens new window).
Regardless of what type of work you do, any asbestos waste must be disposed of appropriately and safely as asbestos waste is classified as a hazardous material. For more information on disposing of asbestos waste, please refer to www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials (opens new window).
Public Health England does not recommend the removal of asbestos without advice.
Information about asbestos removal from some basements in Churchill Gardens Estate
- Why is asbestos being removed from some basements in Churchill Gardens Estate?
After taking over the management of housing services from CityWest Homes on 1 April 2019, Westminster City Council found some incomplete records in relation to asbestos in the basement of your building from June 2018. As a result, we carried out further checks and areas of disturbed asbestos debris were found, these areas were immediately sealed off and tested.
First and foremost, residents are safe within their homes and are not permitted access to the basements.
We have written to all residents about this and a copy of the letter can be downloaded here (PDF 242KB- opens new window). We will continue to send regular updates to residents.
The asbestos removal work will not impact on planned major works and will be undertaken by our contractor, United Living, and their licensed asbestos removal sub-contractor. Work will start in July 2019 and be complete within the year.
- Which basements will asbestos be removed from?
Asbestos will be removed from basements within the following buildings across Churchill Gardens Estate
• Shelley House
• Keats House
• Moyle House
• Chaucer House
• Coleridge House
• Nash House
• Littleton House
• De Quincey House
• Campbell House
• Anson House
• Darwin House
• Chippendale House
• Gilbert House
• Bramwell House
• Lutyens House
• Wilkins House
• Blackstone House
• Hallam House
• Ripley House
• Sheraton House
• Tyrrell House
• Sullivan House
- Will there be an information session for residents to find out more?
Yes, we are holding an information session to answer resident queries where we will be joined by experts. The session will start with a presentation, followed by the chance to ask questions.
Date: Thursday 20 June 2019
Time: 6.30 – 8.00pm (presentation will start at 6.45pm)
Location: Churchill Gardens Hall, Churchill Gardens Estate, SW1V 3AL
- How long has asbestos been in the basements of Churchill Gardens?
Asbestos insulation board (used as a construction material prior to the common use of plasterboard) and asbestos lagging (used to lag water pipes for example) were either installed when the building was built in the 1960s or shortly after.
- Why are these asbestos products still in the basements of Churchill Gardens?
Asbestos can be found in many buildings built before 2000, and when intact and undisturbed it poses no risk. However, Westminster City Council has launched a full investigation into why reports following the discovery of asbestos in the basements in June 2018 did not show action had been taken by CityWest Homes. We will put in place measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
- Will the asbestos remain in the basement?
All identified asbestos insulation boards and asbestos lagging materials including asbestos fibre debris will either be removed or encapsulated (coated with a solid material) by an accredited asbestos removal contractor. Each basement will then undergo an ‘environmental clean’. This is a specific type of deep clean which removes all remaining fibres from the basement.
- I’m a resident and I may have walked through areas of one of the basements. Am I at risk?
Although you may have walked through or near areas with asbestos containing materials and asbestos debris, the latest air tests we’ve carried out are at safe levels. Many cases of 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, especially when not undertaking any work activities. However, if you’re concerned please contact us on 0800 358 3783 for more information.
- Will the asbestos detected in the basement affect my home?
The fact that asbestos debris has been found in the basements of Churchill Gardens will not, in any way, affect your home. There is no ducting or ventilation from the basements into any of the communal areas or into any of the individual flats to allow asbestos fibres (dust) to spread.
- I am planning to apply for a Life Insurance Policy. Will my premiums be affected?
According to The British Medical Association and The Association of British Insurers, when applying for life insurance, critical illness cover or similar, an insurance company should only be requesting a medical report which includes a limited amount of information (current health, time off work in the last 3 years, past health and history of disease among parents and siblings). A history of asbestos exposure would not need to be disclosed by your GP. Non-disclosure would not affect your ability to gain such insurance.
- Has this incident been reported to the enforcing authorities?
Westminster City Council has filed a report to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is called a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) report. The Council is required by law to report the issue at Churchill Gardens.
- How did Westminster City Council choose the asbestos removal contractors?
The asbestos removal contractors who will be undertaking the removal and the encapsulation of asbestos within the Churchill Gardens basements, have been carefully vetted and interviewed by our Health and Safety Team. Each contractor chosen is UKAS accredited, hold membership of ARCA (Asbestos Removal Contractors Association) and are regulated and licensed by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
- Will my heating and hot water supplies be affected during the works in the basement?
We do not anticipate any disruption to your heating and hot water services during the asbestos remediation works. Your day to day routine at home will not be affected at all, however, if this situation changes we will notify you immediately.
- Who do I contact if I have any questions about the removals work taking place?
United Living will allocate a Resident Liaison Officer to assist you. They will be your first point of contact while the works are onsite. Their contact details will be provided to you in writing, advertised on site, before works start onsite. In addition, contact details will also be posted on the website and in block notice boards.