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Site of former asbestos factory could be “Rochdale’s Chernobyl”

Turner Brothers Asbestos Company once had the dubious honour of being the largest asbestos factory in the world. Located in the Spodden Valley near Rochdale, the factory was sold in 1998 with around £263,000 of compensation claims pending. The site was eventually sold to property developers in 2004.

Controversy arose with local residents when the development company revealed plans to build an ‘urban village’ on the site, claiming on the planning application “the absence of any asbestos contamination.”

Having recorded asbestos fibres hanging from the trees, on the ground, and claiming that there were several asbestos dumping grounds in the area, local residents started to take action to prevent development of the land for health and safety reasons.

Local councillor and former employee of the asbestos factory, Tom Stott, described the seriousness of the situation when he claimed the site could be “Rochdale’s Chernobyl.”

Did site clearance work exacerbate the problem?

Clearance of the asbestos factory site began prior to the company’s planning application, and is said to have involved the transportation of waste on open trucks. A campaign group set up to oppose the building works initiated independent testing of tree roots in the area, and large numbers of amosite fibres were discovered.

Amosite is commonly known as brown asbestos – one of the most dangerous types due to the sharp, needle-like fibres that are easy to inhale. Following a series of tests on the building rubble and other areas of the site, the development company finally admitted that asbestos was indeed present.

A spokesperson for the firm said:

“Following the completion of investigations, which have now been published, we recognise there is significant asbestos contamination in areas of the woodland and have evidence of pockets of contamination in other parts of the site.”

Health and Safety Executive involvement

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out testing on the rubble from the factory at the request of local residents, finding that levels of asbestos were ten times higher than levels at which waste should be classified as ‘special waste.’

The fact that this rubble had been transported around the borough on flat-bed trucks to unrecorded destinations, meant that people in the entire locality could have been put at risk from asbestos dust and fibres.

Plans for monitoring air quality

The people of Rochdale have now been asked to vote on whether plans to test the air quality around the former factory site should go ahead. Save Spodden Valley campaign coordinator, Jason Addy, stated that the tests should take into account the significant levels of asbestos already there and the seriousness of the situation for local residents, rather than the testing project being treated as run-of-the-mill monitoring.

The difference asbestos awareness can make

Asbestos training courses include modules on the dangers of coming into contact with the substance, where it might be found within a range of different buildings, how to deal with it, and much more.

UKATA online training ensures that all course content is up-to-date and based on current asbestos legislation, and you’ll get an HSE asbestos certificate if you pass the quiz at the end of the course.

For more information on the Spodden Valley factory, take a look at

Image credit: Rochdale Online