Arun Civic Centre given all-clear after asbestos scare

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CONCERNS over asbestos in the council chamber and meeting rooms at Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton, have been dispelled after laboratory tests cleared a suspicious substance.

The material was discovered during building work in the second floor civic suite on Tuesday morning (March 19) and let to the postponement of a crucial meeting on Wednesday night, when the final decision was to have been taken on Arun District Council’s draft leisure strategy.

Initial laboratory testing of the substance, found while work was being carried out to improve the sound system in the chamber and committee rooms, proved inconclusive, and resulted in the full council meeting on Wednesday being called off.

It was feared the material could have been asbestos, due to the age of the Civic Centre, but a second sample sent to the independent laboratory for analysis has now been found to be safe.

A spokeswoman for Arun said this morning (March 21) that the full council meeting would be arranged “as soon as practicable”.

Up to 200 people had been expected to pack the public gallery for the meeting, including campaigners fighting regenerations schemes in Bognor Regis and groups opposing proposals for Littlehampton’s Windmill Entertainment Centre and Swimming and Sports Centre in the leisure strategy.

The meeting was to have been broadcast in a live webcast, an internet first for Arun, which will still go ahead on the rearranged date.

Arun chief executive Nigel Lynn said: “Obviously, such alarms are concerning for all, particularly in such a large area and it would have been irresponsible to have continued with last night’s full council meeting without knowing the area was safe for members of the public, staff and councillors.

“We are now working hard to re-arrange the full council meeting and webcast and will publicise a new date in due course.”

Council leader Gillian Brown, said “It was very disappointing that it was not possible to hold the Council meeting last night, particularly as there were so many important items to be debated.

“I know this will have caused inconvenience to members of the public who have shown such interest in attending and asking questions and I wish to apologise to those inconvenienced. However, the safety of all those due to attend had to take priority in such circumstances.”

This afternoon’s “Organising an Event?” drop in session is still going ahead at the Civic Centre, following the results of the second test.