ASBESTOS contamination at Ravenscraig Hospital was discovered underneath the building eight years before it was demolished to make way for nearly 200 social homes, the Telegraph can reveal.

Developer Link Group Ltd declared earlier this year that the dangerous contaminant was eradicated from site after the hospital was razed to the ground as part of plans to build on its toxic land.

But the company's strategy for making the land safe doesn't involve removing any confirmed 'multiple exceedances' of various hazardous and cancer-causing pollutants from the soil.

Link's plan — which was approved by Inverclyde Council — is to use 'capping layers' and the social housing development itself as barriers between people and the poisons.

The Telegraph has uncovered a 2011 inspection report which shows that asbestos was found directly beneath the footprint of the category B listed structure.

A specialist asbestos company hired by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHS GGC) states in capital red letters in the document: 'Contamination continues under buildings.'

The investigation by Safer Asbestos Solutions Ltd also located the substance within toilets, a rest room, stores, workshops and a shower room of the former hospital building.

Surveyors magnified this section of Ravenscraig's ground floor plan in their report with the warning about the asbestos being under the building, as well as within it.

Link Group Ltd is to receive £15.3m of public money for building social rent homes on the heavily polluted site it bought for £1 — after the land was officially valued at £850,000.

Company bosses — who decided last month not to respond to further queries from the Telegraph about the development — said in March: "Any asbestos was fully removed during the demolition contract, which took place between late 2018 and early 2019."

Globally respected contamination expert, Professor Andrew Watterson, says all forms of asbestos pose a danger to health.

The University of Stirling academic — and adviser to the World Health Organization — said: "There are always risks from a carcinogen and there's no known safe level for any form of asbestos.

"So the debate will be about what level of risk is there, is it avoidable and who will bear the risk when the asbestos is removed or sealed in during a site clearance.

"If the report has identified any new areas of site contamination by asbestos, this would need to be factored into the remediation and mitigation plans."

Professor Watterson last year debunked an untrue claim by Link Group that the contaminants in the Ravenscraig ground were 'not leachable, or soluble and will not migrate horizontally'.

The professor said: "My first thoughts on looking at the pictures in the architect's report were — what a waste of an historic Greenock building."

Historic Scotland gave the Scots Baronial style Ravenscraig Hospital listed status in July 2008.

But by January 2014 it had fallen into such a dilapidated state of disrepair under the ownership of the health board that architects appointed to carry out a survey on the feasibility of making the building wind and watertight abandoned it amid concerns over costs and its general condition.

That report states that the site was 'protected with security cameras outwith working times' then goes on to state that ridge and flashing had been stolen from the roof and slates 'ripped off'.

This led to 'extensive water ingress and fabric damage' and the building then continued to rot until Inverclyde Planning Board granted permission for its demolition.

Despite the reference to security cameras, the report also states that 'extensive damage' had been caused from 'water, vandals and metal thieves'.

The document — which was produced five years before demolition was approved — makes reference to only one item from the hospital which was to be saved — its 1876 foundation stone and plaque.

NHS GGC sold the former hospital and it's grounds for £1 in a so-called 'back-to-back' deal involving Link Group and the Scottish Government in 2017.

A health board spokesman said: "During the period of ownership, there was a long-term programme of ongoing maintenance which saw multiple repairs to the building conducted as a result of repeated theft and acts of vandalism.

"Some areas of the roof were repaired up to three times, and while the local estates team worked hard to minimise damage caused by the resulting roof leaks, the volume of the theft and the locations of the damage made it extremely difficult to maintain, as outlined in the report.

"As a result, increased security was installed leading to 24/7 cover which minimised further criminal acts and allowed us to identify any new damage caused by theft or vandalism and to take appropriate action when possible."