United’s former home is torched
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.”