Vandal-plagued yard is on hitlist

DEMOLITION BID ... the former Hawthorn Leslie shipyard in Hebburn.
DEMOLITION BID ... the former Hawthorn Leslie shipyard in Hebburn.

A VANDAL-hit disused shipyard in South Tyneside could be bulldozed in a few months.

The disused Hawthorn Leslie yard in Ellison Street, Hebburn, has become a blot on the landscape, and the derelict Victorian building has been plagued by arsonists and vandals for eight years.

Nearby residents, who have called for it to be flattened on safety grounds, could have their prayers answered in the New Year with a bid to have the listed building taken off the register.

The listed building status has tied down South Tyneside Council and the building’s owners – Lancashire-based MMC Development Limited – but a bid has been submitted with English Heritage to have it taken off the protected list.

If successful, that would allow the bulldozers to move in.

Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council and a Monkton ward representative, said he was hopeful of resolving the situation soon.

He said: “We want to see the building demolished but the process to de-list it does take some time and involves a series of checks and a certain amount of jumping through hoops. We’re keeping the pressure for this to be resolved as soon as possible.

“The whole process takes six months and we are three months into that.

“This building has been a haven for anti-social behaviour for too long.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service district manager, Bill Forster, said: “Fire crews have attended four deliberately set fires at this site during the last year.

“While our crews are dealing with deliberate fires, they are not available to attend other more potentially life threatening incidents such as someone trapped in a house fire or in a road traffic accident.

“It also puts extra pressure on our fire crews who are already very busy.”

He added: “As a fire and rescue service, we are always concerned that derelict buildings may become a target for deliberate fires and we are working with our partners to help reduce the risks where possible.”

Dating back to the 1880s, when Newcastle firm R&W Hawthorn amalgamated with the shipbuilding company launched by Hebburn-based Andrew Leslie, the yard was once one of the most revered shipbuilding facilities on the Tyne, famous for building and launching many high-class vessels, including HMS Kelly, which was later immortalised in the wartime film, In Which We Serve.

But the yard has become a dangerous magnet for young firebugs since the premises closed, around eight years ago.