Ormskirk Advertiser

United’s for­mer home is torched

- BY JAMIE LOPEZ Fires · Disasters · Incidents · Accrington Stanley F.C. · Prescot · Manchester · Liverpool Football Club · Skelmersdale · Skelmersdale United F.C. · Wigan · Peter Withe · Craig Noone · Southport F.C.

SKELMERSDA­LE was again hit by a high-pro­file ar­son at­tack as build­ings at a disused foot­ball ground went up in flames.

The for­mer home of Skelmersda­le United was set on fire on Sun­day af­ter­noon in the lat­est of a se­ries of de­lib­er­ate blazes to blight the town.

Fire broke out at the sta­dium, at Selby Place on Stan­ley In­dus­trial Es­tate, shortly be­fore 5pm and is be­ing treated as sus­pi­cious and in­ves­ti­gated by Lan­cashire’s po­lice and fire ser­vices.

A spokesman for Lan­cashire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice said: “Four fire en­gines from Skelmersda­le, Orm­skirk, Wi­gan and Pre­ston, along­side an aerial lad­der plat­form, were called to a fire in­volv­ing a derelict build­ing on Selby Place, Stan­ley In­dus­trial Es­tate, Skelmersda­le.

“Fire­fight­ers used one ground mon­i­tor, one lance and one jet to ex­tin­guish the fire. No in­juries were re­ported and the cause of the fire is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

United left the ground in 2017 af­ter fail­ing to agree a new lease with own­ers Che­quer Prop­er­ties and were forced to in­stead ground­share with

Prescot Ca­bles. A fundrais­ing cam­paign was launched to cover the loss of match­day in­come amid fears they could go bust.

The 138-year-old club, which has been home to play­ers in­clud­ing Steve Heigh­way, Paul Futcher, Peter Withe and Craig Noone, has since re­lo­cated back to the town at the JMO Sports Park, where it is in the process of build­ing stands and other fa­cil­i­ties.

The sta­dium was last used as a train­ing ground for South­port FC, where the Sand­grounders reg­u­larly had to deal with van­dal­ism when they ar­rived at the ground. On one oc­ca­sion, a hos­pi­tal­ity build­ing was burned down in a sus­pected ar­son.

It briefly ap­peared that the sta­dium could host foot­ball matches again when for­mer United chair­man Frank Hughes re­vealed plans to cre­ate a new team called Skelmersda­le AFC and en­ter the North West Coun­ties League from 2019 but that never came to fruition.

The sta­dium has sat empty ever since.

Sun­day’s blaze was the lat­est in a se­ries of ar­son in­ci­dents to hit the town in re­cent months and came just five days af­ter the for­mer Co-op build­ings at West­gate were de­stroyed by a huge blaze.

Three chil­dren have been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with that fire and re­leased un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The for­mer col­lege build­ings at Yew­dale have also been a fre­quent tar­get for ar­son­ists and ur­ban ex­plor­ers and calls have been made to speed up its planned de­mo­li­tion to pre­vent fur­ther at­tacks.

A po­lice spokesman has con­firmed that the sta­dium fire is be­ing treated as sus­pi­cious. youths, two boys and a girl, aged 13 and 14, were later re­leased un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Our en­quiries are on­go­ing and any­body with in­for­ma­tion is asked to get in touch on 101, quot­ing log num­ber 1307 of Septem­ber 15.”

The build­ing has been empty for sev­eral years and was be­lieved to have con­tained a large amount of as­bestos. Plans have been sub­mit­ted to de­mol­ish it and re­place it with an Aldi su­per­mar­ket, but a de­ci­sion has yet to be made by West Lan­cashire Bor­ough Coun­cil.

A spokesman for Lan­cashire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice said: “Eight fire en­gines from Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and Mersey­side were called to a fire at a derelict build­ing on High Street, Skelmersda­le.

“We were called at 19:42 and crews bat­tled to bring the fire un­der con­trol in a build­ing ap­prox­i­mately 50 me­tres by 20 me­tres.

“Lan­cashire Po­lice closed a num­ber of roads in the area and the pub­lic were ad­vised to stay away from the scene, whilst res­i­dents nearby who could see or smell the smoke were ad­vised to keep win­dows and doors shut.”

 ?? ANDREW TEEBAY/ COLIN LANE ?? The shell of the build­ing af­ter last week’s fire, in­set
ANDREW TEEBAY/ COLIN LANE The shell of the build­ing af­ter last week’s fire, in­set
 ?? Main pic­ture: ALAN GUNNIGLE ?? Fire en­gines at the site, seen left when it was Skelmersda­le United’s home
Main pic­ture: ALAN GUNNIGLE Fire en­gines at the site, seen left when it was Skelmersda­le United’s home
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