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 fell out of favour in the late 1970s. Budgetary advances and changing architectural tastes made the scheme obsolete.
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.
In addition to schools, the CLASP system was also used in the 1960s for the buildings of the University of York, designed by architect Andrew Derbyshire between 1961 and 1963. An unusual, perhaps unique use of the system is the Catholic church of St Michael and All Angels in Wombwell, South Yorkshire. Wombwell is prone to mining subsidence and the first church on the site was condemned only ten years after it was built. The replacement church, which was designed by David and Patricia Brown of Weightman & Bullen, opened in 1968, is on a hexagonal plan and clad in concrete panels; the windows are polyester resin instead of stained glass.
Entrance to former buildings at St Paul's School, London (photographed 2008)
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 to replace station buildings with simpler prefabricated concrete structures, particularly in the former Southern Region.
Asbestos in CLASP buildings
Around 3,000 CLASP buildings are still in use across Britain. Since they were built using substantial amounts of asbestos, including as fire-proofing on structural columns and as a replacement for materials of which there were shortages, they are a particular focus of the campaign to remove asbestos from school buildings in the UK. Asbestos is now known to present a serious health concern.
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