Former EDDC CEO fears he may have contracted asbestos-related disease at Knowle

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“A former council CEO has been diagnosed with terminal asbesto-related cancer – and urgently needs to reach out to former co-workers at former East Devon HQ The Knowle.

John Vallender, 72, was given the devastating mesothelioma diagnosis in January last year after seeking medical help having suffered from recurring breathlessness and severe back pain.

Mr Vallender was Local Authority Solicitor and CEO for the East Devon District Council between July 1984 and June 2002.

Initially thought to be suffering from a blood clot, the father of three was referred by his GP for an X-ray, before further intrusive investigations revealed the extent of his condition.

He has now instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Simpson Millar to investigate his employment history.

It comes amidst concerns that he was exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres whilst at work at the Knowle Council Offices in Sidmouth.

According to a freedom of information request carried out by Mr Vallender, the premises, which it is understood will soon be demolished after the Council moves to new premises in Honiton, contain large quantities of asbestos.

In the 90s action was taken to remove asbestos from the Council Chamber, and whilst the Council acknowledge that asbestos was present in the building, they claim that the fibres were not disturbed and would have been safe.

But Mr Vallender, who clearly recalls work being carried out throughout the Council building at times whilst he worked there, said: “The Council building itself was very old, large and dusty.

“My office was refurbished during my time there and I saw people carrying out maintenance activity over the years and that included rubbing down fire doors and working up in the roof space above the offices on the top floor.

“It feels very plausible that I – as well as my colleagues – would have been inhaling dangerous and microscopic asbestos fibres as a result or working in and walking around the entire buildings, over the years, and I am hopeful that this appeal with provide additional evidence to support my case.”

Simpson Millar is now appealing on behalf of Mr Vallender and his family for anyone else who worked at Knowle Council Offices between 1984 and 2002 to come forward with any information they may have in relation to maintenance and repair work undertaken over the years.

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, and we are now working hard to try to gather as much information as possible to ensure that he receives the answers he rightly deserves with regards how and when he was exposed to asbestos, as well as why more was not done to protect him from its harmful consequences.

“Should anyone have any information regarding the conditions of the Council offices in general and maintenance/refurbishment works during the 80s through to 2002 please do get in touch to help Mr Vallender and his family.”

Mr Vallender continued: “I have so many questions relating to how, when and why I was exposed to asbestos at a time when its dangers were so widely known, and I am hopeful that there are other people out there who worked at Knowle Council at the same time as I did who may have further information regarding the conditions of the offices where I spent almost 20 years of my career.”

If anyone has any information then please do come forward and contact Helen Grady of Simpson Millar on Freephone 0808 129 3320.”