Asbestos removal under way at Kettering's former Gala Bingo hall

The Health and Safety Executive has been made aware of the asbestos
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A well-loved and infamous Kettering landmark building has been sealed off so an asbestos removal company can clear out the potentially lethal material.

The former Gala Bingo hall in High Street became notorious after a raid in 2019 by police that discovered a £2.8m drugs factory.

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Despite a petition to get the building named Asset of Community Value, the huge town centre former cinema-bingo hall, which closed in 2018, has been empty since the drugs bust.

The former Gala Bingo building in High Street KetteringThe former Gala Bingo building in High Street Kettering
The former Gala Bingo building in High Street Kettering

Work had started in spring to prepare the interior for use as a 'banquet hall' and Indian restaurant with staff seen clearing the foyer area.

Experts from Greenfield Removals - asbestos specialists - have been on site clearing asbestos from inside the cavernous hall.

James Heath, site supervisor for Greenfield Removals, said: "People in Kettering don't need to worry unless they have been breaking in and taking it away. The people of Kettering are safe."

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The company has been contracted to remove debris in sealed skips that had been found in the back car park.

The back of the Gala BingoThe back of the Gala Bingo
The back of the Gala Bingo

Mr Heath said: "We had to sift through the material. It's not a job for people without the special equipment. This is serpentine chrysotile asbestos that has been used for partitions."

Three skip-loads of asbestos and contaminated material have so far been removed with work expected to last two weeks to remove the partition walls. The affected area has been sealed off with an airlock system about 100m into the complex.

The three-person team has a shower room to ensure that the dangerous fibres are not dispersed into the atmosphere.

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Asbestos is a general name given to several naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have crystallised to form long thin fibres. Serpentine - chrysotile or white asbestos, is the most commonly used type of asbestos and was used up until 1989 when its was banned. Asbestos fibres do not dissolve in water or evaporate, they are resistant to heat, fire, chemical and biological degradation and are mechanically strong, making it an ideal material for use in buildings.

Exposure to asbestos causes around 5,000 deaths every year in the UK. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases often taking a long time to develop. Fatal and serious diseases caused include Mesothelioma - a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis - a serious scarring condition of the lung.

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) puts duties on people in control of work premises to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences, including asbestos with the building owner responsible for the maintenance or repair of the premises, having a 'duty to manage' any asbestos in a building.

A spokesman for The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety that works to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health, said: "HSE is aware of this incident and have an ongoing intervention with the site.

"If there were high risk asbestos materials present then the removal work should have been done by a licensed contractor who would have notified HSE."