The Conservatives’ promise to save Ayr’s High Flats could be scuppered after the discovery of asbestos.
Pre-demolition work has begun on the first of the three blocks at Riverside Place, with an asbestos survey completed last week.
The results are yet to be reported by South Ayrshire Council, but housing portfolio holder Councillor Martin Kilbride confirmed that surveyors have discovered asbestos in the first block of the flats.
Conservative council leader, Martin Dowey, made saving the high flats one of the main parts of his manifesto at May’s local elections.
But the discovery of asbestos contamination makes refurbishment of the buildings a far less likely scenario, with the scheduled demolition now set to continue.
Cllr Kilbride said that an independent asbestos survey had been undertaken as part of the demolition contract, signed under the previous administration.
Around 600 samples had been taken from the first block of flats during the survey and the results are due on Wednesday.
He said: “We will have to look at just how much asbestos there is in the buildings and then look at the feasibility of refurbishment.”
The decision to demolish the buildings followed an assessment of cladding in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
A comprehensive survey in 2018 had seen previous estimated cost of refurbishment at between £9m and £17m rise significantly to between £28m and £35m.
South Ayrshire Council said that a more extensive assessment of the building had been carried out and that this had resulted in the increased costs seen in the 2018 report.
However, the levels of asbestos were not fully assessed during this survey.
A council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that work has started on block one with an asbestos survey already completed.
“The results of the testing are due within the next week so we will then have an indication of the extent of asbestos in the building.
“Windows have not been removed but have been left open to ventilate the building while testing is undertaken.
“Ashleigh Construction are the main contractor for the works. There are currently two sub-contractors onsite, JJL who are carrying out groundworks and Central Demolition who will undertake the demolition of the block.
“Work was undertaken in March to remove all vegetation from the site in advance of the nesting season, so it’s not anticipated that this will be an issue going forward.”
The plan to demolish the 234 flats at Riverside Place and build 90 new flats and a residents facility was originally a single contract.
However, the council claimed that waiting for the full contract to be signed could result in costly delays due to restrictions on work in place during bird nesting season.
In January this year the contract was split between ‘enabling works’ – including vegetation clearing and demolition – and the main construction work.