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Council considers razing Ards 'eyesore' amid safety concerns after wall moves in high winds

By Luke Barnes

Published 13/09/2016

A police car outside the derelict building in Newtownards
A police car outside the derelict building in Newtownards

Councillors in Newtownards have called for the removal of a derelict building amid fears it was on the verge of collapsing during the high winds on Sunday.

Police closed South Street just after 6pm on Sunday when they received word that an abandoned building was unsafe.

The stormy winds had nudged a 25-metre section of the wall on the first floor out of shape.

The council sent contractors to the building yesterday to remove the unsafe section.

The workmen are set to return today to carry out safety checks and ensure the building doesn't deteriorate further.

South Street remained closed for most of yesterday and was only re-opened late in the afternoon.

Concerns about the state of the building were raised four weeks ago by councillor Jimmy Menagh, who said it had "bellied out".

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's a sore sight, it occupies one of the main roads going into Newtownards.

"It should be sorted out one way or another."

Mr Menagh said the council had taken steps to improve the building's structure by cutting down some of the plants and trees that had begun to grow in side and throughout the building.

A council spokesperson said that they will be reaching out to the building's owners to explore options for the property, including demolition.

Councillor Naomi Armstrong-Cotter said that the building had been a constant "eyesore", especially before the false front of houses was installed.

She added that there had been talk about its redevelopment for many years because of its location close to the town centre.

Ms Armstrong-Cotter said its derelict state "definitely needs to be urgently addressed" and that the out-of-shape wall was "merely giving us a warning".

However, there was confusion about what individual or company actually owned the building.

Councillor Alan McDowell said that this uncertainty, coupled with the "wasteland" behind the building's facade, meant that officials should wait before deciding on a course of action.

"The first priority is to make sure it's safe and then try to work with the owner to make it better looking," he said.

Elsewhere in Co Down the high winds caused a serious accident on the Belfast Road near Comber.

Police and three fire engines were called at 6.30pm on Sunday after a large tree fell on a passing car and nearly crushed the driver.

Firefighters had to use cutting equipment to free the woman in her 30s from her car.

She was taken to hospital where her condition was described as "serious".

The road was cleared and re-opened at 11am yesterday morning. Councillor Armstrong-Cotter said: "When you came into town on Monday morning the workers were out lifting trees off the road.

"It wasn't just a breeze, the whole town felt the effects."

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