Asbestos has been identified on the site of two Fazakerley special educational needs schools almost a decade after they were given outline planning permission.
In December 2013, terms were agreed for the construction of Redbridge and Bank View North schools on Long Lane following the cancellation of Liverpool’s Building Schools for the Future capital programme three years previous.
Now, almost 10 years on, a retrospective planning application has revealed remnants of the potentially harmful fibres have been found within the grounds.
Liverpool Council officials have confirmed the presence of contamination remains on site, which has been open to students since 2015. Asbestos was found to have been present for at least five years when football pitch improvements took place in 2018.
A report, discussed by planning committee members at Liverpool Town Hall this morning, highlighted how in 2013 the schools were given outline permission but were ultimately built not in compliance with the decision notices and conditions.
The document contained a request for permission to raise ground levels and reprofile soft landscaping areas by up to 30cm to “enable improved covering over contaminated material present within the ground to be installed.”
This would “ensure that there are no safety risks arising from the use of the site by staff, pupils and visitors” according to the document. Initial remediation works had not been successful, it said.
Site investigation works found a portion of cemented asbestos was present 0.6m below ground level and “asbestos containing materials have been found in several locations on site and that there is now the potential impact for human health given that the schools are in use.”
Asbestos can be found in any building built before 2000, used for strengthening construction as well as for insulation, roofing and fireproofing. However, according to the HSE it kills 5,000 people a year.
When materials containing asbestos are disturbed, fibres release into the air and can cause serious diseases if they are inhaled. The diseases won’t affect people immediately, but once diagnosed they can be too late to treat. Approximately 20 tradespeople die each week as a result of past exposure.
After discussions with environmental health officials, a new remediation strategy has been drawn up, including removing the topsoil across all soft landscaped areas of the entire school site, the laying of a geo-textile membrane and the replacement of this with clean, imported topsoil.
An asbestos management plan and air monitoring method statement have also been submitted. It is thought the work to fully remediate the site could take up to two years from the date of consent “given the need for the works to be undertaken within the summer holidays and factoring in potential delays to any works this summer,” according to the report.
Cllr Joe Hanson was critical of the thoroughness of the scrutiny of the original plans almost a decade ago. He said, “I want to know how this happened and where else it has happened.
“What danger has that put our children in across Liverpool?” Cllr Hanson added how he felt there were “serious questions” for planning officers to answer on how the development was allowed to go ahead.
He said, “It’s inconceivable the health risk put on our children. We must have had an assessment of the land.
“It’s inconceivable we could miss something as important to our children’s health as asbestos.”
In moving the application for retrospective planning permission be deferred until further assurances on the management of asbestos were found, Cllr Hanson said: “It sends out a message that this should not have happened and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again.”