THE owners of the old Bradford & Bingley building society headquarters in Bingley have revealed at last that work will start next month on demolishing the building, but the process will be slowed down by the discovery of a “great deal” of asbestos in the structure.

No details have yet been released by Sainsbury's about the potential future of the site, though Bingley's Chamber of Trade is hoping for a major retailer which would help draw visitors into the town.

However, Chamber spokesman Howard Martin said it had been rumoured the site might be largely taken up with retirement homes, a suggestion which Sainsbury's had not answered when raised at a public meeting.

Contractors are expected on site next month, when hoardings will go up around the landmark Main Street building, to start a 'soft strip' of the building, removing internal fixtures and fittings.

That will be followed by a controlled demolition of the structure, which will be taken down section by section to leave a site clear for redevelopment.

Sainsbury's project manager for the work, Rob Kendon, said: “We are almost ready to start work to demolish the former Bradford & Bingley headquarters on Main Street. However, there are a number of things we must do first to make sure that the site is safe to bring down.

“Our surveys of the building have revealed that a great deal of asbestos was used in its original construction.

"Asbestos is very dangerous and its removal is a sensitive and highly specialised operation that requires time and caution.

"Not only is the level of asbestos here unusually large, it is also located across various parts of the building, which will make it difficult and time-consuming for us to remove.

“Our work will also involve disconnecting the utilities from the site. This is a more complicated process than we'd originally anticipated as the site shares some of its utilities with other neighbouring buildings.

“There'll be a lot of work internally to the building before we'll be in a position to start taking down the external structure, but we will ensure we keep the community updated on our progress.”

Sainsbury's will be launching a convenience store elsewhere in Main Street, at a site previously occupied by a Co-op and restaurant.

When Sainsbury's bought the B&B site, plans for a supermarket development were widely popular but were later dropped.

Mr Martin said Sainsbury's had confirmed interested parties included retail and non-retail developers.

It was rumoured in the area that a retirement homes development could be an option for part of the site, but he said: "We are extremely pleased they are proceeding with their convenience store and hope it is open as soon as possible.

"We are disappointed that the main supermarket never went ahead. We hope it goes for a use that brings people into Bingley, a major retailer rather than housing of whatever sort."

Shipley MP Philip Davies said he had written to other supermarket chains asking if they would be interested in the site, with two so far responding stating they would not.

“I want whatever will deliver the biggest amount of footfall. A supermarket would have been ideal and that is why it was so disappointing that Sainsbury’s are not going ahead.”