Call for action over abandoned police station after firefighter 'unbelievably lucky' to escape injury following breeze block attack
Action has been promised after concerns were raised over alleged attacks on firefighters and anti-social behaviour at the site of a former Sunderland police station.
Farringdon Hall Police Station, off Primate Road, has been empty since 2015, when it was closed by Northumbria Police due to budget cuts.
The site has since become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour (ASB) and despite hopes redevelopment plans could reverse the trend, fears have once again been raised by Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service over the number of incidents at the site.
The worries were voiced at the latest meeting of Sunderland City Council’s West Sunderland Area Committee on Wednesday (June 29), where councillors heard fire brigade chiefs reported seven incidents in the week prior, two of which also included attacks on firefighters.
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Speaking at the meeting, Phil Tye, city councillor for the Silksworth ward, said the site and its owners have recently been issued with a “community protection warning”.
Issued under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the warning requests steps to be taken to secure the site and make it safer, and can lead to further action if the requirements are not fulfilled.
Cllr Tye told the meeting: “It’s positive action. There’s powers there that we’re now starting to use, this was really music to my ears.
“How much it’s been costing the fire service and police [to attend incidents] it’s unbelievable, you couldn’t make up the numbers.”
Andrew Nelson, station manager for Farringdon Community Fire Station, told the meeting he was aware of this progress after highlighting escalating issues at the site.
This included 40 incidents being attended by crews in the 12 months up to June 1 this year.
He said: “At the moment it’s probably the most intense it’s ever been.
“These incidents are often either fires that are in and around the buildings or in the building itself, not just quick 10/15 minute incidents, they’re incidents that end up with special techniques, they’re protracted and can be an hour or two hours long.
“It comes to a point where enough is enough with it.”
He noted a recent attack on a firefighter attending involved “half a breeze block being thrown from a second floor window”.
He added: “It was a glancing blow, hit his shoulder and ricocheted off, so no serious damage. It was unbelievably lucky.”
Northumbria Police representatives attending the meeting said the site is a “major hotspot” and a source of “numerous complaints”.
Emergency services chiefs also pointed to development plans for the land, which they believe will be key to improving the area.
Mr Nelson said: “The only thing we can do to make this area safe is for planning to be pushed through. For whatever reasons there seems to be a hold up.”
Earlier this year it was revealed proposals for a £10 million investment creating new business and retail units were being lined up for the site.
Developers said several businesses had signed up to the development, including B&M Stores with a garden centre, Costa Coffee, Greggs, The Tanning Shop and Westway Vets.