Technical Demolition Services were awarded the contract for the asbestos removal and demolition of the psychiatric hospital formally known as Whittingham Hospital in January 2014.

Whittingham Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in the parish of Whittingham, near Preston, Lancashire, England. The hospital opened in 1873 – 1995 as the Fourth Lancashire County Asylum and grew to be the largest mental hospital in Britain and the second largest in Europe, the site covered 65 acres and the hospital facilitated 3,500 patients and up to 650 staff members and pioneered the use of electroencephalograms (EEGs).

Over the 19 years with the hospital being closed and unoccupied the site had deteriorated massively and had fallen into great disrepair, roofing collapse being the biggest cause of deterioration resulting in areas of the buildings to be unsafe. Buildings areas included wards, accommodation blocks, offices, boiler house, laundry, kitchens, chapel, butchers, ballroom and many others.

Client: Homes and Communities Agency

Contract: Asbestos removal and demolition of buildings and service ducts including excavation and re-instatement of concrete slabs and foundations.

Contract Start: February 2014

Contract End: December 2016

Total Project Value: £4,000,000.00

TDS Challenge

TDS were contracted along with White Young Green, to identify and remove areas of asbestos contamination within the buildings which included pipework lagging and AIB.  Demolition Surveys and refurbishment had to been carried out on most of the buildings, but others were deemed unsafe and therefore a series of strict investigations were needed to be carried out at key phases of the operation.

The Health and Safety Executive were called to site in order to form agreements on safe working practices for the contract, given the state of the buildings and a safe way forward was agreed.

Ecology Issues

The planning of each phase of the operation needed to be undertaken whilst working alongside site. Ecologists TEP. The main concern was the bat population that existed within the buildings which resulted in 3 large bat barns being constructed on the site as well as 90 bat boxes, in addition daily checks for ground nesting birds had to be undertaken, over 80 bats of various species were re-housed.

No demolition work could take place until all of the roof slates had been individually removed and each building section cleared by the Ecologists.


All of the buildings had to be demolished in a controlled manner with asbestos and ecology issues being the main priority. After de-slating and clearance, buildings were slowly dismantled using a 27m high reach Liebherr fitted with a selector grab, materials were then separated at ground level by standard machines in readiness for either recycling or offsite disposal. Building slabs and foundations were removed, backfilled and levelled as part of the contract.

There existed approx. 1 km of large underground service ducts which fed hot water to all of the buildings from the boiler house. The ducts were checked and cleared of any asbestos contamination, broken out and backfilled.

Asbestos Removal

Technical Demolition Services worked alongside WYG Consultants as well as the Health and Safety Executive in a coordinated effort to manage the difficult issues around asbestos removal. In many areas of the site (due to the poor condition of the buildings) it was not possible to undertake asbestos surveys and therefore there was limited information available. 

Inspections of suspected areas were undertaken by all parties using MEWP access where possible. It was found that the majority of asbestos was present within underground service ducts which could only be accessed once the buildings were demolished. Therefore, controlled demolition was extremely important along with the method of removing asbestos from these areas which differed from standard procedures as agreed with the HSE.

Recycling Strategy

The recycling strategy for the contract is paramount to its success and a number of key areas were highlighted as follows:

  • Bricks – large quantities requiring hand picking, cleaning and recycling.
  • Slates – Recovered for re-use
  • Timber – either sent off site for re-use or recycled where possible for animal bedding.
  • Concrete – crushed and used either for backfill on site or sent offsite for recycling.
  • Metals – recycled

The total quantities of materials handled during the project was over 45,000 tonnes

The recycling target achieved for the project was 98%

Working in the Community

One of the many challenges of this project is that of communication with the local community who have previously had many concerns over the site along with how any future development might affect them.

TDS held meetings with local stakeholders and issued newsletters to the local community in order to allay any fears they may have over the operation with continued communication being the focus.

Some local employment was undertaken and various local projects have been assisted. This included the recovery of a mosaic which details a coat of arms for the hospital which will be donated to a local historical group.

Summary of Contract Strategy:

Planning and Execution

Pre-Contract meetings and ongoing monthly meetings were established between all key parties Involved in the contract. These included:

  • HCA Management Team
  • White Young Green Site Management Team
  • TEP Ecologists
  • TDS Site Management Team
  • TDS Senior Management

Meetings were arranged to review works already undertaken, the Health and Safety concerns or issues, progress on each individual area of responsibility, community impacts, liaison and planned work over the coming weeks.

The meetings allowed planning for workforce numbers and plant to be implemented at an early stage to avoid any delays.

Planning and execution for the contract were based upon the Daily Activity Briefings that were held each morning between all management teams present on site and all workforces involved.

This enabled all parties to have a sound understanding of the activities to be undertaken on that day and what impact these activities had onto each other. The meetings also allowed all members of the active workforce on site to express any concerns they had.

Establishing Priority Goals

The monthly meetings enabled close liaison with the client and his management team in order to review and have input into plans of work and areas that might need to be prioritised due to ongoing findings with ecology changes, unknown or newly identified asbestos areas, community impact, etc.

Project Deadlines

Due to the unknown overall impact of asbestos on the site, the overall requirements for ACM removal needed to be flexible but planned. Some areas of ducting and basement areas contained AMC’s which were far in excess of those thought and therefore additional time was required on the programme to deal with these issues.

However, plans were agreed between all parties as to what other areas of work could be managed during the same period to bring the overall timescales back into line with the programme.

Ecology issues also caused delays to work on some of the buildings due to the timing of seasons, these were again managed with the client and all parties by prioritising areas and monitoring of those to be left to a later date.