by Dan Bloom
More than 300 people have signed a petition against a planned asbestos depot a few hundred feet from their homes.
Fuming neighbours of the site in Lordswood are backed by Chatham MP Tracey Crouch, who has campaigned in Parliament for better rights for asbestos disease sufferers.
Medway has the second-highest death rate in the country, since the cancer-causing fibres were manufactured in Higham and used in Chatham Dockyard.
Now the residents have launched a furious door-knocking campaign to try to kill off plans for the former council gritting depot at the southern end of North Dane Way, near the junction with Albemarle Road.
Debbie and David Hales moved their surveying firm Asbestos First into the site last year and now want to use it as a waste transfer station.
They would take in up to 70 tonnes of waste asbestos a week, double-bagged and stored in locked skips behind a barbed-wire fence, which would later be moved to bigger tips elsewhere.
the silent killer
asbestos was a popular fireproofing material until long after its links to lung diseases were discovered in the 1930s.
use of it was banned in 1985 and since then, thousands of construction workers have contracted lung diseases.
the most notorious is mesothelioma, a painful cancer of the inner chest wall that can strike decades after exposure.
due to the difficulty in removing asbestos, it is usually left undisturbed until work needs to be done because only the dust it gives off is dangerous.
this means builders are constantly faced with the problem of removing asbestos – along with regulations they have to fulfil.
Retired nurse Lyn Reed, 64, who lives in nearby Farley Close, said: "They might do it double-bagged and put into containers, but where are their vans coming from? Have they got anything on their tyres when they come in?
"I know people who've died because of asbestos. They worked in Chatham Dockyard. It is something I think a lot about."
Mother-of-two Annabelle Eales, 19, was one of many who was not informed of the plan by Medway Council - despite living yards away in Farley Close.
Talking about asbestos, she said: "It kills, it's dangerous. It stays on your lungs and kills you. It's a slow and painful death.
"It should be disposed of in a proper manner and not next to children's houses or schools.
"If the wind gets hold of that asbestos, it can blow it all over the Medway area and living right next door to it is really dangerous. I've never been involved in a campaign like this in my life."
Mrs Hales, 42, said builders lack somewhere to dump small amounts of asbestos as Medway’s other site, on the Medway City Estate, only takes very large deliveries.
A nearby tip in North Dane Way does take asbestos, but Mrs Hales said commercial deliveries are not allowed.
She said: "The only thing we can't do currently is take it out of a van. Once we become a transfer station the regulations are almost suffocating and I will be doing it far more safely than is required at the moment.
"I'm going to be here every day, so I don't want anything going wrong. It's a problem that exists and if I'm not going to solve it, who is?
"There are unscrupulous types about and it does get fly-tipped."
Chatham MP Tracey Crouch said: "My concern is if there was a disaster like a fire or a tree falling down on the site, then actually the residents wouldn't be protected."
A final decision will be taken by Medway Council's planning committee later this spring.
To find out how to sign the petition, visit the Facebook campaign page or phone organiser Tony Maund on 01634 325821.
The deadline for comments is this Thursday – click here and search 12/3046 to have your say.
Asbestos First is hoping to organise a public meeting this week.
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