Police threaten action against Catholic Diocese after derelict South Shields church becomes magnet for trouble

Police could take action to shut down a derelict church which has become a magnet for antisocial behaviour.

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 1st December 2019, 4:03 pm
The closed Holy Rosary Church, in Horsley Hill Square, South Shields

Holy Rosary Church, in Horsley Hill Square, South Shields, closed its doors in 2017 after more than 40 years with a repairs bill topping £40,000.

And after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle was accused of being ‘reluctant’ to engage with Northumbria Police over problems at the site, officers have said they could take steps to force leaders to properly secure it.

PC Peter McCready said: “We could have gone down the closure order route and said this property is causing significant antisocial behaviour and close it for three months.

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The closed Holy Rosary Church, in Horsley Hill Square, South Shields

“The diocese has responsibility for that place and we could have guidance on a community protection notice being served on the diocese to say we want you to take responsibility and by not doing this you’re giving a handshake to those kids to say it’s alright.”

He added: “A bit of paper can do a lot, people have to take responsibility.”

PC Mccready was speaking at the latest meeting of South Tyneside Council’s East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum (CAF) on Thursday, November 14.

Problems at the church, which opened in 1968, were raised by Harton councillor Pat Hay, who claimed families living in nearby “pensioners’ bungalows” were affected.

Jayne Ingram, area manager for South Tyneside Homes said the diocese was ‘reluctant to spend any extra money to secure the premises’.

Police have confirmed at least 10 incidents at the church have been reported since September, including suspected antisocial behaviour, criminal damage and a break-in.

Responding to the claims, insisted it had been working with police, inspected the site weekly and had ‘strengthened’ fences and gates.

A spokesman said: “The former church site of Holy Rosary in South Shields has been the subject of vandalism in recent months resulting in windows and doors to the house being broken.

“Following these instances of vandalism the Diocese has worked with Northumbria Police to ensure the property has been secured in a timely manner.

“The Diocese continue to inspect the property on a weekly basis in accordance with the recommendations of our insurers.

“The comments of local residents have been taken on board by the Diocese to ensure that garden maintenance has continued, waste around the site has been removed, external doors and perimeter gates have been strengthened and a roller shutter has been fitted over a door alcove where local youths were gathering.

“The Diocese is currently exploring the possibility of property guardians moving in to the house while the future use of the site is considered.

“The Diocese has made contact with the Neighbourhood Policing Team to see if any further security precautions can be recommended.”