Hebburn fire: What we know about the 'death trap' former shipyard Hawthorn Leslie which was targeted in suspected arson attack

The derelict shipyard in Hebburn could be demolished ‘as a matter of urgency’ after it was targeted in a suspected arson attack.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 10:42

Flames tore through the roof and plumes of thick grey smoke poured from the former Hawthorn Leslie shipyard on Wednesday night.

Residents were told to keep windows and doors closed over fears asbestos was in the building.

Flames at Hawthorn Leslie site in suspected arson attack.

A small safety cordon remained in place around the site off Ellison Street yesterday morning, and one fire engine was still at the site.

South Tyneside Council now says it will look to have the building demolished ‘as a matter of urgency’.

What caused the blaze?

Police say the fire is being treated as a suspected arson although an investigation by the fire service is now under way to confirm the cause of the fire.

Flames break through the roof of the property

The building has been targeted a number of times in recent weeks and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is in discussions with the council to see what can be done with the buildings and even if they could be demolished.

Ellison Street and roads surrounding the derelict shipyard were closed by police and a safety cordon was put in place.

Three fire engines remained at the site at around 9.30pm after firefighters began to scale down the operation.

There were fears asbestos was in the building and fibres may have been released in the smoke

What has Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said on the fire?

Lynsey McVay, Area Manager for Community Safety at TWFRS, said: “We’d like to thank local residents for their patience and co-operation last night and this morning as our crews tackled the blaze at the former Hawthorn Leslie site in Hebburn.

"We would like to reiterate there is no risk from the initial smoke plume for local residents.

A safety cordon was put in place around the building

“I’d like to thank our crews and our control room staff who worked so hard to tackle this fire and keep the public informed.

"A fire investigation will take place to determine the cause of the blaze and we will continue to work with our partners at Northumbria Police and South Tyneside Council to reduce the number of incidents at this site.

“If we are attending deliberate fires, we are unavailable to attend other fires or emergencies.”

Why are the derelict Hawthorn Leslie buildings a problem site?

The former shipyard buildings have been unused since Hawthorn Leslie closed in the 1980s.

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Over the years it has become a hotspot for anti-social activity and in recent weeks and months has been targeted in a number of arson attacks.

Aftermath of Hawthorn Leslie fire, Ellison Street, Hebburn

Since the beginning of 2017 there have been at least 16 fires at the former shipyard.

It was first branded a ‘death trap’ a decade ago following a warning over the dangers of youngsters breaking in.

Nearby residents say youths can often be seen breaking onto the site and there are real concerns someone may be injured on the abandoned site.

What are the proposed plans for the derelict shipyard?

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: "We are seeking to have the building demolished as a matter of urgency and we have advised the owners of this.

"We are examining our legal options should the owner not be forthcoming as to a timescale to demolish this building."

Previous plans to demolish the works were held up the site’s listed status. But this was removed in 2014, paving the way for potential redevelopment.

Lancashire-based property development firm MMC Development Limited, which owned the building, previously claimed a planning application was being worked on, but in 2017 the company called in administrators.

What have Northumbria Police said on the suspected arson?

Officers from Northumbria Police operated a safety cordon around the dangerous site last night and wore safety masks as a precaution over fears asbestos fibres had been released in the smoke.

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “Nobody was injured, but local residents were asked to keep all windows and doors shut and remain indoors last night as a precaution. Residents have since been advised by the fire service that there is no risk from the initial smoke plume.

“An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the fire, but police are currently treating the blaze as suspected arson.

“Inquiries are ongoing and anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting log 762 120619 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

What have nearby residents had to say on the site?

This is what readers have said about the latest in a number of fires at the site – with many calling for it to be demolished.

Connor Gardner: “Two kids standing on the roof of it yesterday, only a matter of time till someone’s seriously hurt or worse. Needs pulled down.

Jim Wightman: “I live right opposite and said for years it won’t be pulled down until some unfortunate person is killed in it.Should of come down years ago.”

Gayna Knox: “What does it take to get this death trap pulled down.”

Allan Lenney: “This might actually get the eye sore pulled down.”

Aftermath of Hawthorn Leslie fire, Ellison Street, Hebburn