Asbestos found in St Albans Town Hall

PUBLISHED: 08:17 15 August 2016 | UPDATED: 08:17 15 August 2016

 Grade II Listed building situated in the heart of St Albans Market Place

Grade II Listed building situated in the heart of St Albans Market Place

(c) copyright

Asbestos has been discovered in St Albans’ former Town Hall, which is at the centre of a major transformation into a state-of-the-art museum and art gallery.

The dangerous fibre was found in insulation boarding in the ceiling of the former Tea and Coffee Merchant café during a survey of the historic building.

Its discovery has resulted in an application being lodged by St Albans district council for listed building consent to remove and replace the ceiling in the café area, to enable the removal of the boarding.

In December last year, the go-ahead was granted for a change of use for the Grade II* listed Town Hall to be turned into a new museum and gallery with ancillary café and retail facilities.

The transformation includes extension of the basement, and glazed link extensions to the first floor.

During an asbestos survey, carried out as part of the multi-million-pound refurbishment, asbestos insulation board was found covering the steel beams in the ceiling above the former café and kitchen areas.

The council’s planning application says: “Unfortunately the only way this boarding can be removed is to take down the ceilings in the areas concerned.”

The ceiling in the former café and kitchen area was installed in 1975/76.

Following discussions with Historic England and the council’s conservation officer, it is proposed to fix a new plasterboard ceiling, similar to that in the foyer and landing gallery, either using the original cornice or a replica.

But, if a substantial amount of original cornice is found during the work, and it is possible to retain it after the asbestos is removed, the new plasterboard ceiling will be installed if possible at the level of the original ceiling.

The new ceiling is unlikely to be installed until the summer of 2017.

Public consultation on the scheme ends on August 31.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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