Asbestos alert for protesters in Bradford Odeon campaign

Campaigners bidding to save the Bradford Odeon in 2007
Campaigners bidding to save the Bradford Odeon in 2007
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URGENT action has been taken following the discovery of high levels of asbestos in one of Bradford’s best known buildings – the former Odeon Cinema.

The organisation responsible for the city centre building – the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – says it has been concerned about the structural integrity of the dilapidated building which has been unoccupied for several years.

It commissioned specialist consultants to carry out a survey of potential risk from asbestos in the building and now says the structure has deteriorated further, as well as “very high” levels of asbestos in the building.

While the asbestos does not pose a risk unless disturbed, the HCA has warned people who have entered the building recently without appropriate precautions to get in touch.

A well-supported campaign to save the building has been running for several years and many people have entered the building without authorisation in a bid to disprove claims that the building was beyond repair.

A spokesman for the agency said: “Now that we are aware of these issues we are contacting anyone who has been authorised to enter the building and we are making every effort to contact those people who may have entered the building without the permission of the current and previous owners. If anyone has any concerns, they should contact their GP.”

A source said the situation had now reached the point where every last scrap of asbestos would be removed. He said it was one thing when it was 30ft up in the roof but another thing when it was on the floor and capable of being moved around.

The agency has informed the Health and Safety Executive and is working with specialist asbestos consultants to identify the most suitable action to be taken in relation to the building.

Asbestos was widely used as a building material before the risks it posed were fully understood. Any older building has to have an asbestos survey undertaken before any work can be undertaken to ascertain if there is asbestos and if so to identify safe ways of removing it.

Asbestos is dangerous if inhaled because the fibres, if they become lodged in a person’s lungs, can cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma.

At one time grand plans were released for the former-cinema to be turned into a 100-bed hotel alongside 36 apartments, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Planning permission to demolish the building under a proposal dubbed the “New Victoria Place scheme” was granted for Langtree Artisan. However no work has taken place.

The building has also been the subject of an application to English Heritage to protect it from demolition by having it listed as a scheduled monument. The bid was turned down as it was not considered of “national importance”.