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EXPRESSED: Frustration over fate of former church building

EXPRESSED: Frustration over fate of former church building

The church hall next to the former presbytery in Millbank Street, Image: Terry Blackburn

A councillor has expressed frustration about the fate of a former presbytery after an adjoining church hall was hit by an arson attack last year.

Councillor Sue Jeffrey said the property, in Millbank Street, South Bank, which  once belonged to the local Roman Catholic parish priest and later became a probation office, was grade II listed and in a derelict condition.

An adjoining church hall, which was no longer in use, was set on fire last September by serial arsonist Stefan Geary.

Geary, 50, of Furness Street, Hartlepool, who was said to have a “fascination” with setting fires and watching them be put out, was jailed for four years at Teesside Crown Court in April.

Cllr Jeffrey said: “The pavements have been closed off around it because of the danger of falling masonry and tiles, and it is a magnet for anti-social behaviour and vandalism.”

She also said she was worried about the potential of children getting access to the inside of the property during school holidays.

At a meeting of the council, Cllr Jeffrey asked Councillor Wayne Davies, the cabinet member for economic development, what the local authority was doing to tidy up the area around the building, re-open the footpath and secure its long term future.

Cllr Davies, the cabinet member for economic development, suggested council enforcement action was being taken against the private owners of the presbytery and said the path continued to be closed for safety reasons.

Cllr Jeffrey complained that “this is not the only area of South Bank that the council is not looking after properly” and said street lights at the back of Cromwell Road were not working.

She said: “When will funds be made available to get these lights on again?

“I spoke to a resident today and she said to me quite rightly ‘What do I pay my council tax for?’”

Cllr Davies said he would look into the issue of the lighting and referenced a contract the council has with the company Bouygues Energies & Services, which is replacing traditional street lamps with LED lights across the borough.

He said: “It may be the case this street has not been done yet, but we will get to the answers to her [Cllr Jeffrey].”


Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter

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