Salusbury School parents and residents unimpressed after Paddington Old Cemetery asbestos meeting

Attendees, including Cllr John Duffy (foreground), quizzed the council on asbestos at Paddington Old

Attendees, including Cllr John Duffy (foreground), quizzed the council on asbestos at Paddington Old Cemetery - Credit: Harry Taylor

Residents and parents were left wanting further assurance after a meeting last night on asbestos contaminated ground at Paddington Old Cemetery, near Salusbury School in Kilburn.

Brent Council Chief Executive Carolyn Downs addresses the meeting

Brent Council Chief Executive Carolyn Downs addresses the meeting - Credit: Harry Taylor

The school, on Salsbury Road, has recently closed its ‘greenspace’ area due to fears about the contaminated ground at the cemetery behind the school.

Parents condemned Brent Council’s lack of communication. The headteacher, Michelle Ginty, only found out about the issue weeks ago.

Parents received a letter about the closure of the greenspace, which features fruit trees and vegetable plants planted by pupils, on Monday January 29.

Asbestos was first found in an area known as the ‘mound’ at the cemetery in August 2015.

Debbie Hartley, who is the Greenspace representative for the Friends of Salusbury School asked if the panel had any empathy with the parents. “There are a lot of parents that are very concerned. How would you feel if this had happened at your child’s school?”

Brent Council chief executive Carolyn Downs apologised to attendees for the poor levels of communication.

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The council told the meeting they would take away the mound, and refill it with clean soil by summer. However concerns still remain.

The meeting heard from Brent Council’s Michael Bradley, who had led an internal investigation after the material had been found, Chris Whyte, operational director for environmental services, and Simon Clennell-Jones from Delta Simons who assessed the soil which had been sent for testing.

Council leader Muhammed Butt was also present.

Mr Clennell-Jones said the amount of asbestos in the mound was found in around 80per cent of samples that the company test. He also said only the grave-diggers were at risk.

“There is some asbestos in the soil that is not uncommon in an urban area. According to our modelling, there is no higher risk for people who walk through the area every day. The only risk is for people who dig the graves. It’s an incremental risk for them over a full lifetime.”

Mr Whyte confirmed the cemetery’s grave diggers have been told to visit their GP to seek more information.

At several points the meeting became heated as Kilburn councillor John Duffy, who has been fighting the issue, clashed with meeting chair Amar Dave, the council’s strategic director for the environment.

Cllr Duffy produced photos showing material that had fallen out of the trucks, which had taken the soil with asbestos away. He said the material had then left in the open.

He also accused the council of not interviewing enough people in the investigation that followed the discovery, and of avoiding trying to find out how the soil with asbestos in got into the listed cemetery.

Speaking to the Kilburn Times after the meeting, chair of Friends of Salusbury School, Francesca Burtt-Jones who has a daughter at the school, said she still needed further reassurances. “I’m pleased that Brent Council have agreed to do more testing, and that the council have apologised.

“However I’m still concerned about the mound, and whether they have missed something. The thought that my child has been exposed to this is terrifying.”

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