Whatever the rewards, you can only bang your head against a brick wall for so long

My NHS hospital, Queen Mary’s, was built in 1974 to replace an old WW1 hospital (of considerable importance, but that’s another story) which had been run up in 1917 with the standard construction of asbestos sheet. When it was demolished the spoil was removed from the site.

Or so it was thought. When the old site was being surveyed (probably, though I am not certain, when it was thought ripe for development that would fund a growing deficit – though not for long) it became clear that something was up, as the entire area was suddenly fenced off and notices appeared warning that the site was contaminated.

I enquired further and discovered that test borings had revealed the existence of substantial quantities of asbestos which had obviously not been removed, but had been ploughed in.

The hospital archives contain a wealth of material about the redevelopment and without much trouble I found the original contract for demolition. It was written in black and white that any hazardous material was to be taken away. Clearly this had not happened.

I wrote to the Chief Executive pointing this out. I had established that the contractors were still in existence and suggested that they be sued for the sum now required (several million pounds) to clear the site properly.

Nothing happened.

I wrote again, and to the legal department suggesting that as the contract failure had only just come to light the statute of limitations would not apply.

Nothing happened.

Notwithstanding the land being possibly Green Belt, and thus unusable anyway, the opportunity to clear up properly was passed up. I gave up.


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