Asbestos will have to be cleared from the site of a delayed community hospital project, the NHS announced. NHS Property Services has admitted there are traces of the potentially cancer-causing material where the proposed £7.8million St Luke’s Hospital will be built in Market Harborough.
But it says the mineral is not hazardous and does not pose a health risk. The traces of asbestos are contained in the buried remains of a previously demolished building. Nevertheless, specialists will have to be brought in to deal with the asbestos.
Building work should have started on the St Luke’s site in Leicester Road in the Spring. However that was cancelled because of a wrangle over agreements with proposed tenants.
Health campaigner Phil Knowles, who has battled for the new hospital for 28 years, said:
“This is a very disturbing development. We need to be told the level of asbestos contamination and what is going to be done to ensure the site is clean. We also need to be told if the clean up will add to the costs and of course whether the project will be further delayed. I am very disappointed that we have to drag every piece of information from the NHS. There is no transparency here.”
Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier QC who has raised the delays with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
“The St Luke’s project has become a metaphor for incompetence. If there is asbestos present or not or if it is serious or not, this is simply another example of the problems besetting this project. This project needs to be elevated to the highest political and official level. It seems that this project cannot progress without in-built delays at every stage.”
The NHS admitted the presence of the asbestos yesterday after local newspaper The Leicester Mercury saw an official document referring to the mineral on site.
An NHS Property Services spokesman said:
“The underground remains of the previous buildings on site have been excavated and examined and some traces of asbestos have been identified. However, these have been found to be non-hazardous and there is no risk to the public. The site itself contains no hazardous materials and an appropriate action plan has been developed to manage the site when construction of the new hospital commences.”