Albion Square Development
Ar artist's impression of the £120m Albion Square Development.

Council ‘desperately disappointed’ as asbestos survey rules out retaining Three Ships mural

The Three Ships mural cannot be retained as part of the Albion Square development after a specialist survey found dangerously high levels of asbestos, it has been revealed.

The survey by national specialists The Testing Lab found the development is “heavily contaminated” with a high-risk asbestos product, which is also evident in the core structure of the building.

Sprayed asbestos coating has been identified within the block and beam floor structure of the building, which is connected to the mural.

Because of the levels and location of contamination, the mural cannot be temporally removed and then replaced, as this would contravene legislation from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive and would pose a risk to public safety.

Councillor Daren Hale, portfolio holder for regeneration and economic development, said: “I am desperately disappointed that the findings of this asbestos survey has discovered Hull City Council cannot retain the Three Ships Mural as part of the Albion Square development.

“It was always the council’s intention to retain the mural as part of the development, with specialist consultants brought onto the project at an early stage to explore ways in which it could have been retained.

“A detailed report was due to go to Cabinet which would have presented how the mural could have been temporally removed and replaced, but this latest survey has revealed that those options are no longer possible.

“We have only just received the findings of this survey and have had to act quickly in the interests of public safety.”

The Testing Lab survey reads: “The former British Home Store site in Hull however contains a higher risk product known as sprayed coating.  The building is heavily contaminated with this asbestos spray coating to an extent that it appears structurally impossible to remove under normal controlled measures.

Albion Square plans

The £120m Albion Square development will sit in the heart of the city centre.

“Sprayed coating residues have been identified within the hollow cavities of the block and beam floor structure. At present it is not possible to remove or access these blocks to remediate the asbestos material without disturbing the structural integrity of the building.

“The City of Hull has planned to remove and preserve the Murals from the BHS building however at present we cannot confirm that cavities around these structures are or will be asbestos free to the extent that the murals can be removed without risk of asbestos fibre release.”

A report was due to be presented to Cabinet that would have explored ways of temporally removing the mural whilst demolition of the site took place.

But these options cannot be considered due to the results of the asbestos report, which could only have taken place at this stage of the development once the internal structure of the building had been exposed.

Cllr Hale said: “As disappointed as we are that we cannot retain the mural, we are more determined than ever that a version of this iconic Alan Boyson design will feature as part of this incredible city centre development. We will be working with artists to explore ways in which the Three Ships design can be reproduced, and remain an iconic feature of the city centre.”

The council will seek consent for the demolition of the remaining buildings, including the Three Ships mural.

A discussion with the planning committee and senior planning officers will take place on Wednesday 16 October.

The £120m Albion Square development is due to be completed in spring 2023.

Read the testing lab survey here.

Hull Central Library's business lounge manager Nicola Mellors.
Pearson Park archway pillars