A Norfolk youth and community centre has been closed temporarily after asbestos was found by workmen carrying out improvements to the building.

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The fire retardant material, which has been banned in the UK since 1985 because it has been linked to lung diseases including mesothelioma, was discovered on the top floor at Diss Youth and Community Centre, in Shelfanger Road on Tuesday by workmen who were replacing single framed metal windows with double glazing to make the building more energy efficient.

The discovery has resulted in the centre being shut temporarily pending the results of air tests to determine whether the asbestos poses any danger to centre users.

Keith Kiddie, one of the centre’s trustees, said the mineral was found in panels around windows on the top floor, which were being replaced as part of refurbishments to the centre, built in the 1970s, which will include new flooring, blinds and a suspended ceiling to make it more energy efficient.

However, he said the top floor was not used by any of the groups based at the centre, including the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band and there was no risk anyone could have been contaminated by the asbestos, which is only harmful if it is disturbed.

He added the workmen moved swiftly to stop the improvements and close the building after discovering the white material, which was subsequently confirmed as asbestos by an independent expert.

Mr Kiddie said windows on the bottom floor had already been replaced and no asbestos had been found.

“It is just one of those unfortunate things. Nobody knew there was asbestos in there before the work started, but now that we have discovered it we have just got to get on and manage it,” he added.

He did not know how much it would cost to remove the asbestos, but said he was hopeful the downstairs section of the building could be reopened soon to users once the results of the air tests were known.

The centre’s trustees have been successful in receiving £40,000 of grant funding from the Norfolk Community Fund, South Norfolk Council, Norfolk County Council’s Construction Fund, Awards for All and a small amount of infrastructure money from developers to pay for the improvements.

The first phase of work to replace the windows started this week but had to be suspended following the asbestos discovery.

The centre was saved by an anonymous donor, who stepped in to buy the facility when it was being sold by the county council as part of cutbacks to reduce the national debt.

As well as a regular youth club, the centre also plays host to events and activities including collectors fayres, art group meetings and dance events and judo classes.

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