Dealing with Austins asbestos ‘a legal duty’ - council

Derry department store, Austins of the Diamond. (0805MMaustins)
Derry department store, Austins of the Diamond. (0805MMaustins)

Derry City and Strabane District Council has said there is a legal requirement on those responsible for maintaining business premises to deal with asbestos, following revelations about the closure of the Austins store in Derry.

A spokesperson for the council confirmed that its officials have been “liaising with the duty holder in relation to the discovery of asbestos in the Austins building in an area which has not been accessed by the public”.

She added: “Asbestos can be found in any building constructed before the year 2000, including houses, factories, offices, schools or hospitals. Those responsible for maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises have a legal duty to manage the risk from asbestos under The Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

“Where appropriate, the Council will enforce the control of asbestos regulations via a range of enforcement options and will provide sign posting to relevant guidance on these matters.”

Last week the ‘Journal’ revealed that a potential £130,000 bill to tackle asbestos in the Austin’s building in Derry had proved a major stumbling block to attracting outside investment.

Documents pertaining to the liquidation of the company which ran the Austins store, and the issues that led to its closure in March with the loss of 53 jobs, highlight the asbestos issue.

The documents show that sales within the department store had actually risen by almost 7% in the months prior to its closure, but that the unforeseen costs of dealing with asbestos, and the disruption to trading this would have entailed, was a factor in failing to secure investment following talks with prospective investors.

Derry City Council officials raised the asbestos issue following the introduction of new regulations, in the Spring of 2015.