Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme
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The Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme (abbreviated and more commonly referred to as CLASP), was formed in England in 1957 to combine the resources of Local Authorities with the purpose of developing a prefabricated school building programme. Initially developed by Charles Herbert Aslin, the county architect for Hertfordshire, the system was used as a model for several other counties, most notably Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. CLASP's popularity in these coal mining areas was in part because the system permitted fairly straightforward replacement of subsidence damaged sections of building.
The system utilised prefabricated light gauge steel frames which could be built economically up to a maximum of 4 storeys. The frames were finished in a variety of claddings and their modular nature could be employed to produce architecturally satisfying buildings. Initially developed solely for schools, the system was also used to provide offices and housing.
A later development was known as SCOLA (Second Consortium of Local Authorities) and MACE (Metropolitan Architectural Consortium for Education).
The cynics' definition of the CLASP acronym, circulating in the 1970s, was "collection of loosely assembled steel parts".
CLASP buildings are also well known for the substantial amount of asbestos used in their construction, mainly asbestos insulation used in structural columns to support the building. There are now campaigns to remove asbestos from existing school buildings, many of which were built through this programme.
Examples of use
Important examples include many Hertfordshire schools, some of which have since been listed. The system was also used in the construction of the independent St Paul's School, London, designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, which was constructed on unstable ground on a former reservoir, and completed in 1968.
Other uses of the CLASP system in the 1960s included the buildings of the University of York, designed by architect Andrew Derbyshire between 1961 and 1963, and the Catholic church of St Michael and All Angels (opened in 1968) in Wombwell, South Yorkshire. It is an "unusual, possibly unique" use of the system in Catholic church design. Wombwell is prone to mining subsidence and the original church on the site was condemned only ten years after it was built.
Former entrance to St Paul's School, London, built using the CLASP system (photographed 2008).
The CLASP Block at Nottinghamshire County Hall during demolition in March 2017.
Between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the CLASP system was implemented by British Rail for the functional simplification of facilities at railway stations. Many stations, particularly in the former Southern Region, had their original station buildings replaced by prefabricated concrete structures.
Asbestos in CLASP buildings
CLASP buildings fell out of favour in the late-1970s. Budgetary advances and changing architectural tastes made the scheme obsolete, but the troublesome legacy of asbestos still casts a shadow over many public buildings. Around 3,000 CLASP buildings are still in use across Britain, posing real problems for local authorities and dutyholders alike. It can be tempting to disregard CLASP building as a bygone problem, but doing so is incredibly dangerous.
- "Asbestos in schools 'CLASP' Working Group". www.hse.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
- "House of Commons - Education Committee - No - Minutes of Evidence: HC 1056". www.publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
- Heaps, Elizabeth (May 2016). "Sir Andrew Derbyshire: Obituary". University of York. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- "Wombwell – St Michael and All Angels". Catholic Trust for England and Wales and English Heritage. 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
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- "CLASP buildings of the 50s – Simple, Cost Effective, DANGEROUS!". Greenfield Removals Limited. 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
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