Concern that fire starters are targeting empty buildings

Coun Steve Tulley
Coun Steve Tulley

Concerns are growing that delays in developments are leaving derelict and unused buildings open to arsonists and vandals.

The old fire station in South Elsmall was the latest to be torched when crews were called to the Barnsley Road site on Monday at about 5pm.

Last week the former Mill Lane Working Men’s Club in South Kirkby was set alight - the second time in as many months.

There have also been problems with the old doctors’ surgery building on South Elmsall’s Little Lane.

South Elmsall and South Kirkby ward councillor, Steve Tulley, says the issue lies with developers who snap up the sites and then leave them to rot.

He said: “These properties become derelict, companies buy them and get planning permission and then it goes dead.

“We keep pushing but we have very little control.

“Every time a place closes down we have hassle with developers who buy them then sit on it, waiting for something to happen.

“If they do come in to buy them, there needs to be some restrictions placed on them, that it has to be done by a certain time.

“They may have the best intentions but often nothing seems to happen, leaving the community to pick up the pieces.”

Following Monday’s blaze at the old fire station - on which the land is earmarked to become an Aldi store - a fire spokesman admitted: “It seems to be an ongoing occurrence - it’s happened a few times now.”

The Mill Lane club had been running at a loss last year when the club’s committee had little option to shut.

Since then an application from a Chesterfield-based company to convert the site into 14 townhouses was approved by Wakefield Council.

Coun Tulley says ownership of the site has now changed hands several times and there is little to suggest work will be started anytime soon, despite repeated fire attacks.

“These companies that have no connection to the area buy them and then sell them on and you don’t know who owns them.

“I’m really concerned about the situation.”