Open Letter to the Western Telegraph

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I'm writing to express my concern at the story on page 57 regarding "Asbestos risk".  I have copied this to all Trustees and the county council officers handling this building project.


Having worked for twenty years in a local newspaper, it is clear that this story was very unbalanced in it's reporting of what was said at the meeting where some councillors presented many facts about the Hall demonstrating there is an almost insignificant risk of asbestos.  None of those facts presented were reported - only the "concerns" of the town clerk.  Phrases such as "danger to people"  "poses a risk"  and "staff put at risk" were readily reprinted from the Town Clerk's report which was only conjecture,  while hard facts about  the Pater Hall were not considered worth reporting.


 Sadly this report now may cause concern to some users of the hall when  there is no real cause for that concern.


Let me present the facts which were said at the meeting but totally ignored by your reporter in what I consider to be a very unprofessional manner:


Cllr Pam George, seven times mayor and the senior councillor spoke of how no-one is more concerned about asbestos than her, as her husband had died of asbestosis. Cllr George considered the hall is minimal risk due to:


A) The Council had replaced the roof completely around fifteen years ago , thereby removing what is often thought of as an area of possible risk.


B) The council had appointed a specialist asbestos removal company around about the same time to remove asbestos ( mainly from the cellar area).


C) Cllr Phil Gwyther then told of the previous town clerk Mr Ian Jones who last week told him about presenting a report to council  shortly after he took over (possibly 7/8 years ago).  He had consulted with the previous town clerk in charge when the specialist company removed the asbestos and the long standing caretaker who knows the building inside out.  That report concluded there was no asbestos to be found apart from an insignificant amount in the cellar (thought to be the end of the flu pipe which is sealed off anyway).  The council noted the report and decided nothing needed to be done.


D)  Extensive building work took place some 3/4 years ago at the Southern end of the building.  No asbestos was found during this work.


E) The architects have said they do not expect to find any asbestos during the work to start shortly.    I doubt whether they would be able to professionally state this categorically in writing. Common sense should tell people that.


F) The builders and the architects all have strict asbestos policies and trained workers and in the unlikely event of finding any trace of asbestos this will be managed properly in accordance with strict guidelines on reporting and safe removal.


Had these six statements of fact been fairly reported and  balanced properly against the town clerk's perceived concerns, readers would surely have come to the conclusion that there is an insignificant risk which is being properly managed.


It seems you have followed the old joke of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story but I hope you are prepared in some way to present these facts to your readers next week. Unfair confusion may well be in evidence amongst users.


Phil Gwyther

Town Councillor and Pater Hall Trustee



Editor's Note