Contractors have finally moved on to the site of Wigan’s most infamous derelict mill this week as major safety work gets under way after months of wrangling.
Wigan Council, in partnership with police and fire chiefs, has arranged for work to take place at the privately-owned listed Pagefield Mill which has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour and trespassers for a number of years.
The council has repeatedly urged the owner of the building to adequately secure the site to prevent trespassing – with young people often putting their lives at risk by playing in the dangerous complex.
Fire crews have wasted thousands of pounds dealing with incidents at the mill and visitors to Mesnes Park have watched in horror as teenagers have diced with death by scaling the large tower.
Local ward councillors have raised their concerns fearing that a serious accident is likely due to the site being so dangerous.
Material on the site also poses a significant fire risk and general risk to health and safety.
Exasperated council chiefs used legal powers to serve notice on the building’s owners instructing them to make the site safe and secure.
This legal deadline has now passed and the council has been left with no option but to carry out the work themselves and then reclaim the costs from the owners if and when it is eventually sold. To date it is believed more than £150,000 has been spent dealing with the continous problems. The work will include:
l Removal and disposal of all building rubble throughout the site.
l Removal of asbestos material from weaving sheds and disposal.
l Sealing up of access points to former underground air raid shelters.
l Sealing up access points to chimney stack.
l Removal of giant hogweed plants, which can cause serious burns.
Workmen are expected to be on site for two weeks and after this is complete the second phase will involve building a more robust fence around the perimeter of the mill because the current fence has proved so ineffective in keeping trespassers out.
Coun David Molyneux, deputy leader of Wigan Council, said: "The council and its partners are taking responsible and preventative action on this very dangerous site. Unfortunately we have exhausted all other options and we have come to the point where we must take matters into our own hands in order to make it safe.
"The alternative is leaving the site insecure and in an unsatisfactory condition with the worst case scenario that we have a young person seriously injured or lose their life.
"That is every parents’ worst nightmare and one which we are determined to do everything we can to prevent.
"The works have been agreed with the full support of the local ward councillors, who share residents’ concern about the site.
"We would continue to urge people to stay away from the site and ask parents to ensure their children do not go there as their lives are at risk."
Residents near the mill site will be contacted by the council directly informing them about the activity on the site.
The council will be placing a charge on the building in order to recover the cost of the clear up and the fence installation.
This means once the building is sold the council will get that money back.
Last summer the council demolished a fire damaged outer building of the mill following a spate of fires and incidents.
The work has been welcomed by local ward councillor George Davies.
Coun Davies said: "I echo Coun Molyneux’s statement and I urge everyone, especially the young teenagers, to stay away from this site at all times, but especially while this work is ongoing."
The owner and representatives of the Pagefield building have been identified as Trident Trust, Sloane International Developments and Hill And Standard.
They have repeatedly refused to answer any questions put to them by the Observer or even engage in any dialogue whatsoever.