Will planning reform put more people at risk from asbestos?

building-plan-354233_1920

There have been lots of concerns raised in the national press recently about new planning reforms which mean a wider range of commercial properties can now be converted into flats.

The reforms came into force at the beginning of this month in a bid to regenerate city centres which have struggled during the pandemic.

However, major insurance groups and leading building experts have raised concerns that the reforms could lead to the creation of poor quality homes which may be vulnerable to overheating in the summer and could put lives at risk.

The warnings come on the back of last year’s heatwaves in England which caused 2,556 deaths and the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent body which advises the Government, has predicted such numbers could triple from an average of 2,000 to 7,000 deaths a year by 2050.

This issue should be on the radar of planning authorities, developers and homeowners but we feel that these reforms could have another huge impact which so far seems to be being overlooked.

The reality is that many of the units that are now fair game for developers who want to turn them into flats are likely to contain asbestos.

During the second half of the 20th century around six million tonnes of raw asbestos fibre was imported to our shores because it was used heavily by our construction industry.

Asbestos was in many of the common materials used by our building trade and as a result can be found in a wide variety of locations in both commercial and domestic properties. To see for yourself some of the most popular places that asbestos can still be found lurking in industrial and residential properties visit the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) website.

As a result of asbestos’ widespread usage, some legal experts suggest that 50% of UK buildings constructed before 1999 may still contain asbestos in one form or another today.

Why could this reform put homeowners at risk from asbestos?

The danger with converting more commercial properties into homes is that this type of work is very disruptive to the fabric of the building. If the building contains asbestos it is highly likely that it will be disturbed – potentially putting lives at risk – unless the developer has an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey carried out prior to any work starting on site.

If an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey is carried out before work starts, it will locate and describe, as far as possible, all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) within the building. By their nature, these types of asbestos surveys are intrusive and, to a degree, destructive. For example, it is important to know what the insulation materials are in a wall cavity. However, it is imperative that this survey is carried out to ensure the safety of anyone working on, or visiting, the development.

In our business we work with lots of incredibly responsible construction firms every day however you only need to take a quick look at the latest prosecutions carried out by the HSE to see that sadly there are plenty of builders out there who are willing to cut corners to save time or money. Our fear is that for some developers the temptation to leave large amounts of asbestos in converted properties will be too great and the danger then is it may potentially be disturbed by homeowners in the future.

You may remember that not so long ago we shared a report of a court case which revealed that a homeowner had to leave their home and live in a hotel for 11 months after a garage door installation company failed to manage asbestos safely during works at the homeowner’s property.

This gives you an idea of the kind of disruption that you can face as a homeowner if asbestos is disturbed at your property.

As upsetting as this story is, what is even worse is the danger that asbestos poses to people’s health if it is not managed correctly and is disturbed. Sadly, on average more than 2,000 people die every year in Great Britain as a result of asbestos-related cancers.

According to the HSE’s Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain, 2021 report there were 2,369 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2019. Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively between 1950 and 1980 continue to be most at risk of mesothelioma. This is because this particular form of cancer takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres, Tragically, once symptoms appear it is usually rapidly fatal – often within 12 months.

We’re hoping that in the coming years the number of annual deaths from asbestos-related diseases will start to fall year on year as people become more educated about the dangers the material poses. The last thing anyone wants is for well-meaning planning reforms – designed to breathe life into cities – to bring about a new wave of asbestos-related deaths.

We hope planning authorities will require developers to undertake Asbestos Refurbishment Surveys before work on conversions begin to protect both those working on site and those who will one day move into the newly created homes.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Ian Stone

I am based out of our Northampton office but regularly travel to meet with new and existing clients. I have assisted thousands of clients over the years on varying-sized projects, several have been schemes totalling over one million pounds spent purely on asbestos. Together with Neil Munro, I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I am Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

England star Stuart Pearce has helped to raise awareness of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: How an England footballer is bringing home the dangers of this hidden killer

THIS afternoon, England’s Three Lions made a winning start to their World Cup campaign beating Iran in their first match in Qatar. But one footballing legend fears he could be in danger of developing mesothelioma after starting his career as an electrician in the 1980s. While former England legend Stuart Pearce is now undoubtedly best … Read more

Viviana, one of the newest members of Acorn's team

Team talk: Meet Viviana one of the talented new recruits at Acorn Analytical Services

WITH the UK in the grip of an asbestos epidemic, recruiting talented, experienced staff to join the award-winning team of experts at Acorn Analytical Services has never been more important. Despite being banned in new buildings more than 20 years ago, asbestos remains a huge problem for many businesses and, as a result, demand for … Read more

It's time to learn your asbestos ABC

Asbestos: How learning your ABC could help us to save lives

At Acorn Analytical Services we have one very simple message – ABC – or Asbestos Before Construction. It’s a simple message but it’s also an important one. Before carrying out building work of any kind you must check for the presence of asbestos first. Not doing so could have potentially serious implications for the health … Read more

Our Movember heroes, Lewis, Dave and Dan

Meet Dave, Dan and Lewis – Acorn’s amazing Movember heroes

AS we start November, Acorn Analytical Services is very proud to be supporting Movember, the annual charity event which shines a spotlight on men’s health, in particular, mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. We pride ourselves on being at the heart of our community and we always try to give back … Read more

Asbestos management company is growing

Acorn Analytical Services: An ambitious asbestos management company which continues to grow

FROM small acorns strong businesses grow – something that everyone at Acorn Analytical Services is extremely proud of. Even in turbulent times, Acorn Analytical Services continues to lead the way, offering reliable asbestos management services to a wide range of businesses and organisations – from well-known high street brands to local schools and colleges. In … Read more

Asbestos training

Asbestos training: Acorn Analytical Services launches free session to build knowledge among architects

ASBESTOS has once again dominated the headlines this week reaffirming our worst fears that the UK is in the grip of an asbestos epidemic. Many older buildings, including factories, schools and hospitals, contain this dangerous material which over time is starting to degrade. It’s a ticking timebomb and, as one of the UK’s leading consultancies, … Read more

Mesothelioma dangers in the classroom

Mesothelioma: We must protect our teachers from any hidden dangers

BEHIND every statistic we read about mesothelioma there lies a story – the story of another life lost from prolonged exposure to asbestos. Sadly, over the years it’s a story that has become all too familiar. Despite being banned in the UK more than 20 years ago, asbestos is still all around us – in … Read more

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn remains strong

Asbestos industry turbulence: Acorn Analytical Services is strong, dynamic and well-placed to weather the storm

WHILE economic uncertainty may be starting to bite in the asbestos industry, Acorn Analytical Services continues to go from strength to strength offering essential support to clients right across the UK. With more than 20 years’ experience in the asbestos and health and safety industry, we’ve become a trusted partner to a growing number of … Read more

Mesothelioma day 2022

Mesothelioma Day: Shining a light on the work of Mesothelioma UK

TODAY, September 26, marks Mesothelioma Day in the US, an important day to raise awareness of the disease and of the dangers of asbestos worldwide. Even though asbestos was banned from new buildings in the UK more than 20 years ago, it is a problem we all still live with. Many buildings, including factories, schools … Read more

Behind the scenes of our laboratories

The science bit: Putting the important work of our laboratories under the microscope

AMONG the experts at Acorn Analytical Services is a dedicated team of laboratory analysts who work in our in-house laboratories in Northampton and Cleckheaton. Their work involves supporting our consultants, and our clients, by analysing samples of materials which are found on-site or sent to us to be investigated. Here we take a more detailed … Read more