By Matthew Leslie
Concerns have been voiced over the numbers of Housing Executive properties that contain asbestos.
Figures obtained by SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone, from Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, revealed that close to 50,000 families in the North who are house in Housing Executive accommodation are living with asbestos.
The statistics showed that properties within the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council boundaries that contain asbestos totalled at 2361.
While these were the lowest in the North – Belfast had the highest rate with 12,662 – Cllr Bernice Swift said that the figures for Fermanagh and Omagh were still concerning and that the Department for Communities needed to take immediate action.
She said: “The alarming asbestos figures revealed in our Council area requires immediate attention and action driven by the Minister.
“As a priority the Minister should instigate a review of the 2361 confirmed Housing Executive homes with asbestos content in Fermanagh and Omagh along with informing all occupants of safety and alleviating any risk concerns and addressing them where necessary.
“Furthermore the Minister must release essential funding to oversee full in-depth monitoring and any necessary removal of any harmful asbestos if required to our Council’s citizens living in the Housing Executive properties confirmed.
“It won’t be acceptable that a previously banned material such as asbestos and facts published about its whereabouts now goes unchecked. Action must be taken and assurances provided that all is being done to address this alarming revelation.
“The Housing Executive Departments with responsibility, overseen by the Minister for Communities must act within their obligations and review this issue to a satisfactory conclusion immediately.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was widely used within construction and other industries up until the 1990s before health risks associated with it saw its use banned.
However, the Housing Executive says that asbestos only poses a risk when disturbed and that if their own regular inspections and upgrading work discovers asbestos within their properties, then action is taken to remove it.
A spokesperson said: “Asbestos only poses a risk if it is disturbed and we have a programme to manage asbestos in our properties.
“We advise tenants of necessary processes, what happens if asbestos is found and if any action is required.
“Our tenants are advised that they should not make changes to their properties without our approval, at which stage we will check if asbestos survey details are available.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition