Asbestos warning over former government research facility amid reports of trespassing

The entrance to Houghton Grange

The entrance to Houghton Grange - Credit: Archant

The owner of a former government research facility in St Ives has promised to take action to prevent trespassers accessing the dilapidated site.

The Home and Communities Agency took over responsibility for Houghton Grange from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in November, with the site having been vacant for decades.

Many of the buildings on the site have fallen into disrepair and have become a magnet for trespassers and vandals.

In the last few months, police have been called to the property on at least five occasions to respond to reports of people seen wandering around the grounds, climbing into derelict buildings and committing acts of vandalism.

The latest incident happened on January 2, with reports of a large group trespassing on the site.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “There is an on-going problem with teenagers breaking into this site and putting themselves in danger.”

People are also filming themselves as they wander around the crumbling buildings and posting the videos on YouTube, with scores of people logging on to view the footage.

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A spokesman for the Home and Communities Agency confirmed to The Hunts Post that it had recently taken over responsibility for the site and was aware of the issues surrounding trespass. The spokesman said action would be taken to address them.

The agency did not respond when asked what specific measures would be taken.

According to documents submitted to Huntingdonshire District Council, as part of a previous planning application for Houghton Grange, some of the buildings on the site contain asbestos which, if disturbed, is carcinogenic.

The site has been derelict for more than 20 years and is about 35 acres in size.

Planning permission was first obtained for the redevelopment of the site as a business park in the 1990s but, after failing to attract interest from developers, the site was allocated by Huntingdonshire District Council for residential development and outline planning permission was obtained for residential redevelopment in 2006.

This was subsequently renewed in 2012 with a further grant of planning permission for around 150,000 sq ft for residential floor space.

Councillor Debbie Townsend, the mayor of St Ives, said: “It is a shame because it is a lovely building and it needs some TLC. From the town council’s point of view it has been left in this state for far too long and any move to change that would be welcome.”