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HomeeuropePorous concrete that triggered UK school closures is found at London airports

Porous concrete that triggered UK school closures is found at London airports

LONDON – A type of concrete that has forced hundreds of British schools to close over safety fears has been found at London Heathrow and Gatwick, the airports said on Friday.

Concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) prompted the closure of classrooms and buildings in late August, just before the start of the new school year in England.

The British government is under pressure to act and has faced questions about how much it knew about the extent of the issue and when, and what it plans to do to fix it.

The shelf life of the porous substance, which is prone to corrosion and cracking as it ages, has stoked fears about its wider use in British public buildings such as hospitals and courts.

Heathrow and Gatwick played down concerns about the risks to airport users and staff, and said areas identified as having RAAC were closely monitored.

“Industry has been aware and acting on the remedial steps that should be taken in buildings that contain this material,” a Heathrow spokesman said.

“We, like many others, have been assessing our estate and will continue to mitigate the risk where this material is found.

“Passenger and colleague safety will always be our first priority and we will continue to update stakeholders across the sector as our plans for permanent solutions progress.”

RAAC was found in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and an assessment of its mitigation plans was carried out after the issue with schools emerged, and found to be suitable.

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A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said it had a register of locations containing RAAC, which were “closely monitored through a regular comprehensive structural inspection regime”.

“Our most recent inspection in June 2023 did not present any concerns and we will continue to monitor on a regular basis,” the spokesman added.

Both Heathrow, which handled 62 million passengers in 2022, and Gatwick, which had more than 30 million in the same period, were privatised in the 1980s.

RAAC – a cheap, lightweight form of concrete – was widely used in construction from the 1950s until the mid-1990s.

Concerns about its shelf life grew in 2018 when a roof collapsed without warning at a primary school in south-east England. AFP

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