Fire chiefs' warning over 'death trap' shipyard Hawthorn Leslie in Hebburn after plans go in for housing development

Fire chiefs have urged the public to remain vigilant about the dangers of blazes at a ‘death trap’ abandoned shipyard, despite plans to redevelop the site.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 14 August, 2019, 18:21
Aftermath of a fire at Hawthorn Leslie, Ellison Street, Hebburn, in June 2019

The application for environmental assessments on the land comes after firefighters used a meeting with councillors earlier this year to call for action at the ex-boat maker’s.

The site has become become a magnet for arson and other anti-social behaviour, with at least 15 fires since 2017.

In June, families living nearby were told to keep windows closed due to fears over asbestos while a fire at the yard was tackled.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager Steve Burdis said: “While we await any planning decisions on the site, it’s important to be aware that our local management team works with South Tyneside Council and the Hawthorn Leslie site owners to support security issues around the site with the aim of reducing the fire risk to members of the public and emergency services.

“This has included increasing our fire prevention work with deliberate fire reduction tours, distributing FireStoppers posters and leaflets around the local community – all of which will continue.

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He added: “Unoccupied buildings are a greater target for arson and a general lack of maintenance also provides challenges to our firefighters if there is a fire.

“It’s therefore essential that when buildings are left unoccupied that risks are identified early and addressed.”

Hawthorn Leslie was Hebburn’s last working shipyard when it closed in 1981. The site was bought by ship repairers the A&P Group in 2001, but was later sold to MMC Developments in 2004.

MMC went into administration in 2017 and according to a report by administrators the company’s ‘land at Hebburn’, as it was referred to, was valued at £900,000, but expected to fetch just £250,000 at sale.

A subsequent administrator’s report, filed with Companies House early this year said the ‘South Tyneside dry dock’ had been sold for £350,000, leaving creditor Natwest £934,126 out of pocket.