SHOCKED residents at a Gourock high rise have hit out after discovering their homes could contain potentially deadly asbestos.

People living in Eastern View – where old heating systems are to be ripped out and replaced at a cost of £4m – have slammed bosses at River Clyde Homes (RCH) after learning that asbestos insulation boards are located behind boilers in their homes.

The Tele understands concerns have been raised that some people had put coat hook screws into the boards – possibly many years ago – potentially disturbing and releasing asbestos.

Three of the 87 flats have had their boiler cupboards sealed to prevent access – and all residents have been told NOT to go into the cupboards.

They have been advised that, if they want to adjust their heating controls, they must phone RCH’s heating number, and an engineer will be sent out to do it.

Hamish MacLeod, secretary of the Eastern View Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, described the situation as ‘ludicrous’.

Mr MacLeod said: “We were told that RCH was going to ‘encapsulate’ the boards with some sort of plastic paint, but this has been done in only three flats, and now we believe they want to take out all the boilers.

“We have many vulnerable, elderly people in this block and some with medical conditions, and this is no way to treat them.”

Mr MacLeod says RCH have said air tests have shown no asbestos has escaped, but he pointed out that some people were still going into their cupboards to adjust boilers.

He added: “It’s understandable that people don’t want the hassle of having to wait for an engineer every time they want to adjust their heating, but are they putting themselves in danger by going into the cupboards?”

Officials from RCH are due to meet residents at the town’s Gamble Halls this afternoon to answer questions in a bid to allay their fears.

Gary Wilson, executive director of property, said: “The proposed works to upgrade the heating system at Eastern View are part of a £20m initiative to help reduce fuel poverty in Inverclyde.

“Outdated and uneconomical heating systems will be replaced with modern, energy-efficient local heating systems that will result in warmer homes and reduced fuel bills for tenants, while ensuring homes meet new energy efficiency standards set by the Scottish Government.

“Buildings of the age and design of Eastern View generally contain asbestos materials.

“This is not unusual.

“Asbestos is not a risk to health unless it is damaged or disturbed.

“As the safety of our tenants is our number one priority, and to ensure the asbestos in the boiler cupboards cannot be disturbed until it can be removed safely as part of the heating replacement works, we have taken the precaution of sealing these cupboards.

“We understand that restricting access to the boiler cupboards is inconvenient for residents and have investigated possible alternatives to this, such as sealing the boards with paint.

“However this work would need to be done by a specialist asbestos contractor, and would involve an additional decant for residents, which we are keen to avoid.”

Mr Wilson says the housing association is aware that residents will be inconvenienced by being asked to leave their homes for the heating upgrade, and recognises that many of the tenants at Eastern View are elderly.

He added: “Our first priority is to minimise disruption to them.

“The planned decant will be done on a floor-by-floor basis, and the first residents will not be decanted for at least six to eight weeks.

“All residents will be given at least two weeks’ notice before being moved.

“We have a full programme of support in place to help residents through this process, which will be discussed when we meet with each resident individually to discuss their unique needs."

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance says it is keen to provide advice and support to anyone worried about asbestos.

Emily Walsh, director of the the organisation's community outreach, said their goal is to raise awareness of mesothelioma cancer and the dangers of asbestos exposure.

She said: "Helping to educate others on the hazards of asbestos is one of the most rewarding parts of our job."

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