Asbestos fears over St Albans’ Odyssey cinema

AN ANONYMOUS tip-off about the possibility of asbestos being found in The Odyssey cinema, the focus of a major restoration project in St Albans, has a neighbouring resident worried.

Annie Robb, a childminder, has contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ask whether the material has been found in the building on London Road.

The old Odeon cinema has been lying derelict for 15 years, and there are plans to bring it back to life as a one-screen art deco theatre, similar to the popular Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted.

Annie said that she arrived home to an anonymous hand-written letter warning her that there was “a high level of asbestos dust on the ground floor of [the] building”.

The author of the letter said they had noticed she had small children on her premises and, “thought you should be aware of the situation”.

The person advised her to “keep all your windows shut” should there be any further rubbish removed, particularly if it was dusty.

Annie said: “I don’t know who it is from, but I live close to The Odyssey. There is sporadic work and clearing out of the building but it is very piecemeal. They have had rubbish and dust.

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“I called St Albans district council, but they said it wasn’t a matter for them, and referred me to HSE.”

Annie continued: “I am concerned, and I want to make sure the cinema is cleared properly. I’m fifty-fifty about [the letter], because it is definitely a warning.”

Owner of The Odyssey James Hannaway, a cinema entrepreneur, said comments on the possibility of asbestos did not seem to match up with the information he had, and these details were being further checked.

“To ensure the safety at all times of the neighbourhood and all on-site personnel during their extensive restoration works of this 80-year-old public building, our project management team and main contractor are surveying and identifying all aspects of the building.

“This includes identifying possible hazards confined to the building, including pigeon [excrement] infestation and residue of other materials.

“As always, they are dealing with it professionally, under proper supervision.”

In March this year the team behind the project posted an update on The Odyssey’s website saying that while they were actively trying to obtain more funding, they were also “quietly preparing things for health [and] safety and fire certification”.

The Odyssey team has recently appointed Borras Construction of St Albans as its main contractor.

Financing of the restoration project has proved successful, with �1.2 million of the estimated �1.6 million that it will cost to revamp it already secured, and work on the rebuild has begun.