Friday, April 18, 2008

Whessoe House

To Brinkburn Road on Friday evening to convene a site meeting regarding the state of the now-derelict offices adjoining the Darrowby Drive estate.

My portfolio as Cabinet Member for Health and Leisure includes responsibility for environmental health. So when I was contacted by local councillor Alex Nicholson about ongoing problems on the site, I pulled together a site meeting which involved the local councillors, Council officers, and representatives from the Police, Fire Brigade and the Warden service.

It's fair to say that the scene at the offices took me aback - the substantial four-storey building has been comprehensively trashed by youths, with virtually every window smashed and debris lying everywhere. Residents on the nearby Darrowby Drive estate have clearly put up with a great deal.

Worse, it's clear that organised criminals have been systematically stripping the Whessoe building and the adjacent vacant Studio complex of metal and wiring for scrap.

Positively, the meeting heard that the owners of the site are taking the problem seriously, and have installed permanent security personnel. A substantial temporary fence is going to be erected around the perimeter soon. In the meantime, we agreed to press the company to install CCTV on the building to either catch or deter potential vandals and thieves. The relevant legal notices have been served promptly by the officers to ensure that the building is made secure. The Police and wardens will respond very promptly to reports of break-ins and trouble.

The message I tried to get across via the Echo this morning was that this site is not a playground - it's a death trap, something the fire officer confirmed. Local parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing when they're out, and dissaude them strongly from visiting the building. A few years ago we had a tragedy at the Cattle Market with children fooling about on the roofs there, and I would hate to see something similar repeated on this occasion.


Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

Why can't the building be demolished because as you have stated it is clearly a death trap?

I noticed last Christmas that the windows in the building were broken and the blinds flapping. So why has it taken so long for the owners and the Council to stir themselves into action?

If the police and the Council know that organised crime is occurring in the building why doesn't the police do something about it instead of waiting for residents to call them?

In order to be effective CCTV has to be monitored and the response swift. If the monitoring station is miles from Darlington I hope there will not be a breakdown in communications with Darlington police. That would be a disaster.

Pro active policing is what's needed here not reactive policing or alternatively ask the company to hire security guards for the site.

The site is in a shocking condition, like the Ex North Road Filling Station. Both are not very good advertisements for Darlington.

Darlington Councillor said...

I'm sorry, Alan - I meant to reply to your comment before.

Whilst I would as a community representative be delighted to send in the Council bulldozers to flatten the site, certain legal niceties regarding the ownership of private property have to be respected.

Most pertinently, regarding this building, asbestos is suspected to be present, and so careful assessment has to take place before the property can be pulled down. Believe me, officers are pushing very hard for the survey work to be completed, and this blight on the area removed.

The company do have security guards on the site, by the way.

Today, I received the following update

"we can now inform you that the contractors are on site and work has commenced installing the hoarding.

We have been informed that the work will take 3 weeks not 2 as originally stated and we have contacted the company to express concern that the work is not being carried out as a matter of urgency."

Ward members have been informed, and I will continue to monitor progress.