PEOPLE living near a vandalised and fire-ravaged former school have welcomed news that council bosses are planning to demolish it as soon as possible.
More than 40 neighbours of the disused Wensleydale Middle School in Blyth signed a petition, which was sent to the county council last month calling for the building to be knocked down.
The school closed as part of an education shake-up in the town more than two years ago, but since then worried locals say they have been plagued by anti-social behaviour – with yobs vandalising the empty building and hanging around causing trouble.
Last month, dozens of emergency vehicles and police sniffer dogs were called out after a suspicious fire broke out in the main school and the caretaker’s house.
Two 16-year-old youths were arrested by police near to the scene and bailed pending further enquiries.
The incident sparked the petition, which was collected by the local Solingen Estate Residents’ Association, to have the Dent Street buildings flattened in a bid to avoid further trouble.
A report to county councillors next week says funding is currently being secured by the authority to bring in demolition contractors to flatten the school, as negotiations continue with developers on the redevelopment of the site.
Head of commercial and property services, Frank Jordan, says in a report to the south east area committee that officers recognise there are anti-social issues with the security of the buildings and, from a health and safety point of view, they should be demolished as soon as possible.
The economic slump has held up the sale of the site for redevelopment, but Mr Jordan says talks are now taking place with a number of potential developers, and it is hoped an offer will soon be accepted. Yesterday Joan Maltman, secretary of the Solingen residents’ association, said local people would be delighted to see the school go.
“It is a nightmare for us at the moment and the sooner the buildings are demolished the better. The bottom line is that it has to be knocked down to resolve the problems we are having here.
“Youths climb on the roof and break the windows, there have been two fires there and it is money down the drain for the council trying to keep it secure and safe. There are people in their 80s living nearby and one lady has been getting youths coming from the school into her garden.
“As long as the buildings are there they will attract this kind of trouble.
“The police have been brilliant in responding to calls from residents but they have better things to do.
“I understand from calling the council on Monday that they are now looking to find the funding to demolish it, and that is what we are asking for. It is a shame in a way because this school should have continued to be used for what it was built for. There is plenty of space there. However, people backing onto it and living in the nearby streets just want to see it go because of the ongoing problems it is causing.”
In his report to next week’s meeting, Mr Jordan says the school has been hit by vandals on a number of occasions.
“When required, the building has been re-secured and repairs made to the alarm systems.
“However, due to the open nature of the site it is recognised that vandalism attacks are likely to continue.
“Officers are in the process of securing funding from the council in order to let a demolition contract, although the cost of demolition will not be fully recovered from an increased capital receipt.”
Residents have also claimed parts of the school have been raided for scrap metal and that a youth was injured after falling from the roof.