Youths dicing with death at derelict college building

Exterior of the derelict building, formerly Wigan and Leigh College's Pagefield Campus, where the fence has been torn down making access into the site
Exterior of the derelict building, formerly Wigan and Leigh College's Pagefield Campus, where the fence has been torn down making access into the site

THE use of a derelict Wigan building - dubbed a death trap - as an “adventure playground” has prompted a plea for urgent action.

Concerned dad-of-three Gareth Parkinson said gangs of up to 45 youths were congregating at the disused Pagefield campus building adjacent to Mesnes Park.

Glass and metal have been thrown into the gardens of nearby properties “like spears”, he told the Evening Post.

And gangs of youths set fire to the part of the building on Wednesday night, mirroring a series of arson incidents last year.

Mr Parkinson, who lives on Kenyon Road, said his 12 and two-year-old sons had found metal shards while playing in their garden.

Youths have been spotted scaling the walls, clambering out of top floor windows and climbing on the roof.

He told the Evening Post: “The situation is far worse than last year, there’s gangs of youths from ages nine to 18, boys and girls this time.

“They’ve kicked down a fence between the building and the park and caused devastation. They’re dicing with death, perching on the top ledges like pigeons. It needs something to happen before someone gets hurt, there’s no security measures in place.”

The building - previously Rylands Mill - was sold by Wigan and Leigh College in 2009 to a property developer.

It has been earmarked for apartments and a residential development.

Two fire crews from Wigan were required to douse flames in a section of the building just after 10pm on Wednesday.

Crew manager Nigel Shepherd said: “We were there for about two hours, it’s a very dangerous place. It appears whoever set the fire had gone onto the roof which makes it very difficult for us.

“We had to pull our hose reels through the building to get to the fire - taking up our time and resources.

“Our watch manager will be writing to the owners and to the council.”

A spokesman for Wigan Council said its officers were aware of the situation and are working alongside Greater Manchester Police to restore the security measures.

Last year, fire crews were called to the site after teenagers were setting alight old furnishings, paper and cardboard.

In recent weeks, a security fence with barbed wire has been forced down, allowing easy access from Mesnes Park.

Mr Parkinson, who is a mechanical manager at a bakery, added: “When my eldest son brought his brother in because he could hear kids behind the back of our garden I thought it may have been an overreaction, to be honest.

“But then we found metal that had been thrown over where they play - he was actually being very responsible.

“Residents are suffering but also these kids - some as young as nine - are endangering themselves. Given the massive investment that the town has put into facilities, instead they would rather destroy this once magnificent, socially significant building to smithereens.”

Jason Taylor, 44, of Park Road, who is a regular dog-walker in Mesnes Park, said: “When you walk through the park you can see kids hanging out of the mill windows and hear them smashing it up.

“It’s almost comical, if I had done that as a kid I would have been in lots of trouble.

“I’ve spoken to other dog walkers and they see the same.

“It’s a shame when they’ve spent so much money doing up the park. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”

* A previous version of this article stated that the building was still owned by MCR. To clarify, MCR sold it on to another company in February 2014.