Asbestos concern for more than 150 schools across Yorkshire, says campaign group

A group campaigning to improve the UK’s management of asbestos has warned of the danger posed by more than 150 schools across Yorkshire.

Campaign group Airtight on Asbestos has urged authorities to "act quickly" and remove the "threat" posed by the cancer-causing substance in more than 150 school building across the region.

Campaign group Airtight on Asbestos has urged authorities to "act quickly" and remove the "threat" posed by the cancer-causing substance in more than 150 school buildings across the region.

Built after the Second World War, ‘CLASP’ (Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme) was formed to construct cheap and efficient buildings for a range of purposes, including schools.

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According to the Airtight on Asbestos campaign, many of these buildings become increasingly dangerous with age, as the boards where the columns join lack durability.

The campaign group says constituencies with the highest number of CLASP schools are found in Elmet and Rothwell, and Rother Valley, with around sixteen each, closely followed by Barnsley East and Wakefield with 14, while 13 were identified in Hemsworth and Pontefract and Castleford.

Charles Pickles, Founder of the Airtight on Asbestos campaign said: "Although as a country we’ve taken steps to better manage asbestos, these measures are not sufficient to mitigate the threat presented by the substance, particularly when it’s located in ageing CLASP schools, where the risk of disturbance is that much higher.”

The average age of the 178 schools identified by the campaign group across Yorkshire is 50 years, meaning that the vast majority are near the end of their design life.

A spokesman for the campaign added: “Given how widespread CLASP structures are in schools across Yorkshire and the North, how quickly the government moves to replace them will be a test of its commitment to levelling up. Some of these places elected a Conservative MP in 2019 for the first time, and voters will certainly be watching.”

Matt Gladstone, the executive director for place, from Barnsley Council said seven of the original CLASP schools were demolished in Barnsley East as part of a major schools refurbishment programme which ran from 1993 to 2012 and resulted in the construction of new state of the art schools.

He added the council maintain four schools which were built by CLASP in the post-World War Two era.

Mr Gladstone said: "The education of our children and young people in high-quality, healthy learning environments is a priority for our council.

"Any parent in Barnsley who has any concerns about this issue can contact their local school and request the school’s asbestos management plan.

"This records when the school was last inspected, whether asbestos was found and what plans the school has to manage these materials and mitigate any risk to teachers, pupils and school users."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: "The safety of our pupils and staff in schools is of utmost importance to the council. Any school which has asbestos on site also has an asbestos management plan to ensure the health and safety of students and staff alike.

"Regular returns are made to the Department for Education to ensure compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations."

Rotherham Council were also contacted by The Yorkshire Post for comment.

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