Asbestos find lands firm in court

STEPHEN PULLINGER The operator of one of Norfolk's top night clubs and entertainment complexes is facing a series of charges alleging that staff and the public were put at risk from asbestos.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The operator of one of Norfolk's top nightclubs and entertainment complexes is facing a series of charges alleging that staff and the public were put at risk from asbestos.

Towering Leisure, which runs Atlantis Arena on Yarmouth seafront, is being prosecuted by the borough council following the discovery of asbestos in the ceiling of the dance floor last November.

The case against the firm - which opened the complex to much acclaim in 2003 after its £5m revamp of the former Tiffany's nightclub - is listed to be heard at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court on October 16.

Towering Leisure faces two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 of failing to protect sufficiently the safety of staff and employees.

It is also accused on three counts of failing to comply with control of asbestos at work regulations, alleging that it neglected to maintain properly or remove the asbestos, failed to prevent or reduce its spread, and failed to protect employees from exposure to it.

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If magistrates deal with the case, maximum fines would total £55,000, but if they refer it to the crown court for sentence, fines could be unlimited.

The Atlantis Arena's co-owner Rodney Scott, who told the EDP in August that removing the asbestos was costing a "six-figure sum", yesterday declined to comment on the impending case.

The council issued a prohibition order after the discovery of asbestos, banning entry to the affected part of the complex except by specialist contractors wearing protective suits and breathing apparatus.

Initially, it was hoped the clear-up would allow reopening by Easter but the discovery of more asbestos has meant it staying closed until the end of the year.

Summer entertainment had to be scrapped and the management has said it will not risk booking Christmas events until the last minute when it is sure the work has been done.

Derryth Wright, commercial manager for the council's health and safety team, said: "We don't take prosecutions lightly; only when we feel it is in the public's interest and the evidence suggests a significant situation has arisen that could have been prevented.

"From our investigation, we have found significant evidence that has caused us concern."

She said exposure to asbestos had been described as a "ticking time bomb" as it could take 20 to 30 years for mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lung lining, and other conditions such as stomach cancer to occur.