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Some Kent councils ‘double-checking’ buildings for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)

No other public buildings in Kent have been found to have been constructed with the crumbling concrete at the centre of a political storm – but some councils are double-checking.

Although reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has been found in seven schools in the county, other properties appear to be free of the controversial building material.

St James' Primary in Tunbridge Wells was partially closed on Tuesday. Picture: Google
St James' Primary in Tunbridge Wells was partially closed on Tuesday. Picture: Google

It comes as the Children's Commissioner Dame Rachel De Souza warned of the impact on vulnerable children, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has been under intense fire not alerting the RAAC problem earlier although ministers claim some schools were slow in responding to a survey notice sent out earlier this year.

Councils and health authorities we contacted reported no sign of RAAC in public buildings such as libraries, hospitals and council-owned property.

Some said they were taking the precaution of double-checking.

Kent County Council said since the 2018 collapse of a flat roof at Singlewell Primary in Gravesend, its non-school estate, such as libraries, has been inspected.

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. Stock image
Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. Stock image

The Singlewell incident happened in an area largely used by adults and there were no injuries.

A KCC spokesman said: “At the time, the council’s non-school estate was inspected and no problems turned up.”

Most district and borough councils who responded to our requests said their buildings were RAAC free.

Leader of Maidstone Borough Council David Burton said: “We’re pretty sure we’re clear but we’re double-checking just the same.”

A spokesman at another authority said: “The truth is, most local councils don’t have that many buildings anymore, so they can be pretty sure pretty quickly.”

Cllr David Burton (Con)
Cllr David Burton (Con)

Ashford Borough Council, which does have a large commercial portfolio of retail and office buildings, is currently carrying out a “double-check”.

A spokesman said: “We are not currently aware of any council-owned buildings containing RAAC. We are investigating further, and any additional information will be provided in due course."

A spokesman for Canterbury City Council said: "As soon as the problems with RAAC hit the headlines, the council kicked off an audit to discover if this is a problem affecting any of our buildings and, if it does, what steps we would need to take.

"It is early days and this work is ongoing."

A Sevenoaks District Council spokesman said: “We are not aware of any of our buildings being impacted by RAAC. However, we are following the approach recommended by UK government and we are carrying out precautionary assessments of our buildings constructed in the time period indicated by government.”

"It is early days and this work is ongoing...”

Seven KCC schools were revealed to be affected by the crisis sparked by the discovery of potentially unsafe concrete.

Two of the seven - Palmarsh Primary, Hythe and St James Church of England Primary, Tunbridge Wells – had to close on Tuesday.

Remedial work is being carried out on the others. The five other schools are Sunnybank Primary, Sittingbourne, Godinton Primary, Ashford, St Bartholomew’s Catholic Primary School, Swanley, Birchington Church of England Primary, Thanet and King Ethelbert Secondary School, Thanet.

Rory Love, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Kent does have seven schools where RAAC has been positively confirmed to date.

“In six schools, the affected areas were taken out of use before the summer in accordance with the direction of the DfE. I am pleased to confirm that works have progressed well on these schools over the summer period.

Cllr Rory Love. Picture: KCC
Cllr Rory Love. Picture: KCC

“It is understood that the seventh school was already working with the DfE and has put arrangements in place that will enable the school to operate using temporary accommodation and alternative parts of the school.”

Dame Rachel said: “Everything must now be done to ensure the impact on children’s learning is minimised. And it is particularly important that everyone working with children prioritises those who are vulnerable and those with additional needs.”

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (Thanet; Canterbury and Ashford); Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and Dartford an Gravesham NHS Trust are currently RAAC-free. Medway NHS Foundation Trust has yet to respond.

The Orchard Theatre, in Home Gardens, Dartford closed its doors on Tuesday (September 5) following an inspection the previous day.

It has not been confirmed when it will reopen.

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