Stark warning over play danger at factory site

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YOUNGSTERS having summer holiday fun could be signing their own death warrants, villagers have warned.

The skateboard ‘park’ and ramps they have created inside a disused factory are made from materials covered in killer white asbestos, parents and children have been told.

And while they may not seem in any danger, one speck inhaled now could cause premature deaths.

The asbestos alert is one of several danger warnings issued by Elmswell Parish Council, which is voicing serious concerns about the sprawling former Harris bacon site, which has been disused since it closed in 2006, with 400 jobs lost.

While the frontage has been fenced, the site, surrounded by farmland, is easily accessed from two footpaths which cross it.

A statement from the council said: “The general security of the site is much improved, but there remains many serious hazards, particularly to children and young people trespassing.

“Open manholes, large areas of deep standing water and quantities of deadly, white asbestos make it, literally, a death trap.”

Parish clerk Peter Dow said young people had built a skateboard park inside one of the former units, unaware that some of the materials were made from white asbestos, or covered with it.

Some pits, formerly used in meat production processes, contained water as deep as 6ft, he said.

But young people were not entirely to blame for all the problems as heavy manhole covers have been stolen from drains, as well as copper cables.

Police say they share the council’s concerns, said Mr Dow, who regularly liaises with a security company hired to patrol the site by its current owners, believed to be a bank or financial institution, which took control when a development company ran into financial problems.

Until new owners are found, it seems unlikely that there will be wholesale demolition and clean-up of the site which would be the only practical way to guarantee safety, says the parish council.

Mr Dow said he did not know which bank owned the 6.5 hectare site, but that its security was handled by Veritas Management.

A Veritas spokesman said the person handling Elmswell was away and would not be able to comment until next week.

Meat processing began 100 years ago and in its heyday the factory dealt with around 60,000 pigs a year.

In 2008, its then owners JG Land & Estates put forward a plan to develop the land with 200 houses, a care home and a £3.5 million relief road.

A Police spokesman said: “Although we have not had a large amount of crimes recorded, officers are aware people have concerns. If anyone witnesses someone entering the site they should call police immediately.”