Chingford residents seek reassurance asbestos-ridden school buildings will be safely demolished

Residents want to ensure children and staff are not exposed to asbestos at a  primary school during building and demolition works. Contractors are working in Selwyn Primary School’s two Edwardian buildings to demolish them and improve the Chingford facility, but residents are worried children and staff may be at risk.

Concerns were also raised about the decision to demolish the site and residents say this will put pressure on the number of school places in the area as new property developments are completed.

Two Edwardian buildings on the primary school site are known to have asbestos and suspected asbestos materials within them and residents want reassurance that contractors and those who hired them are taking the issue seriously. A total of 600 children attend the school, with multiple classes per year and there are no planned closures of the entire campus whilst the building works are carried out.

But contractors say asbestos removal will only be conducted in vacated, sealed buildings, without putting the children at risk. The refurbishment of the school has been ordered by the Educational and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). A spokesman for the ESFA said:

“The ESFA takes the safety of pupils and staff very seriously and follows strict HSE guidance in the removal of any hazardous material such as asbestos.

Removal of asbestos will only commence in vacated sealed buildings which has no access to Selwyn children or staff and is solely in the possession of the main contractor. All our main contractors are required to appoint specialists to remove any such material and provide evidence of this as well as its legal disposal.

All areas are then regularly air tested to make sure they are clear before the area is unsealed.

Waltham Forest Council has been advised by the ESFA that their technical consultants have completed a thorough check of all the risk assessments and method statements from the main contractor and confirmed they are complaint.

These are old buildings and there is both known and unknown asbestos so the main contractor has conducted a refurbishment and demolition survey to identify what is unknown to arrange its safe removal before demolition. This is due to be removed shortly and if nothing else is found demolition will start in approximately 10 weeks.”

The contractors carrying out the work are neither appointed nor supervised by Waltham Forest Council. Councillor Grace Williams, cabinet member for children and young people, said:

“The project to rebuild Selwyn Primary School is funded and managed by a central government agency, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, as part of its Priority Schools Building programme.

This national programme aims to rebuild schools that are in the very worst condition. The work will enable pupils of Selwyn Primary to enjoy learning in a fit-for-purpose environment as they get the best start in life.”

Responding to questions about the potential pressure on school places, Cllr Williams added:

“In this planning area there is currently a surplus of places, rather than a shortage. Thorpe Hall School, which is nearby, is actually reducing its admission number temporarily due to decreased demand. We are therefore confident there will be no pressure on school places.”