Parents were demonstrating today as work began to demolish industrial buildings containing asbestos.

Veolia, waste contractor for Brighton and Hove City Council, was due to start tearing down a former abattoir and cleaning centre in Hollingdean Lane, Brighton.

People living nearby and parents with children at Downs Infants and Downs Junior Schools planned to stage a protest at 3.05pm at the bus stop opposite the infants school.

They have accused Veolia and the council of failing to reassure them about their safety.

During a fire earlier this year, residents were advised to stay inside their homes and not to eat any vegetables from their gardens for two weeks. The site is to be used for a waste and recycling transfer station.

Ed Start, of Dump The Dump campaign, said: "There are serious health risks. We know the buildings have asbestos and we know the ground is contaminated."

Campaigners want the council to discuss their fears at a public meeting. On Friday and Saturday they collected signatures for a letter demanding further debate.

Mr Start said: "People feel alienated from the process. It isn't just the schools, it is the whole community.

"There are a large number of people close to the site. I don't think people have been reassured about how safe it is going to be."

Veolia has sent out a newsletter called Hollingdean Lane Bulletin but parents said this failed to address potential hazards, the methods by which the site will be monitored and contingency plans to cover any problems.

The council said the demolition was being carried out on the advice of the police and fire service to secure the site. There have been seven arson attacks this year.

The work will take about eight weeks and the site will be fenced off with 24-hour security.

A council spokesman said: "There has been extensive discussion between our environmental health officers, head teachers and governors at the school regarding the demolition work and the role of the Health and Safety Executive and environmental health officers.

"We have offered help and advice and our environment health officers have had meetings with the school to keep them informed."

Mark Marsden, from the fire service's arson reduction team said: "Over the past few months we have been called to deal with several deliberately-started fires at Hollingdean.

"As a result, the buildings are now in a dangerous state, and pose a serious risk."

A Veolia spokeswoman said: "We have made it clear the demolition work will be carried out in strict compliance with the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive and the council's environmental health team.

She said there was a helpline for specific queries on 01273 426553.