THE last remnants of Wearside’s shipbuilding heritage are being reduced to rubble.
Demolition teams have torn down swathes of buildings believed to date from the 1930s at the former Doxford shipyards at Pallion Quay.
The yards were once part of the thriving industry which made Sunderland the world’s shipbuilding powerhouse, but were shut down in the 1980s with thousands losing their jobs.
The historic buildings at the site sat mothballed, but have now been cleared.
The demolition work has left Wearsiders scratching their heads with no one so far announcing who ordered the work – and even uncertainty over who is in charge of the site.
Tory councillor Lee Martin believes the yards belong to a reclusive family from overseas and the buildings may be being torn down to avoid empty property business rates.
He branded the demolition “industrial vandalism.”
He said: “They’re part of Sunderland’s heritage. If 20 or 30 years ago the old warehouses and industrial buildings in Leeds and Manchester had been demolished, the renaissance of those cities would never have happened. Those old buildings were brought back into use.
He added: “If we were ever going to have a maritime museum, as has been discussed for years, then the Doxford yards might have been the place to do it.”
The Barnes councillor said he discovered the demolition work was taking place when visiting WH Foster printers near the shipyard site to pick up some party leaflets.
Coun Martin said he was not sure how viable it would have been to bring the buildings at the Doxford yard back into use as housing as had been done with former industrial buildings in Lancashire and Yorkshire.
He added: “We would love to see some work happening down there, but I suspect this is to do with the owners being handed a bill for the empty business rates brought in by Gordon Brown’s Government.”
The gatehouse at the site, which Coun Martin believes to be a Listed building, is still in place but he said the cranes had been getting “closer and closer” to the structure.
The demolition work has also sparked an outcry on online chat forums.
One user wrote: “I see there knocking down Doxford Yard offices – It’s disgusting that all this heritage and that is going un-noticed. I hope they don’t knock the gate house down though, that is brilliant.”