A COUNCILLOR has branded a derelict building an "accident waiting to happen."

The Drill Hall, on Prudhoe's Swalwell Close, has been subject to a long-running dispute after concerns were first raised in 2019 over the safety of the building.

Work on the former Territorial Army drill hall, which was most recently used as a gym, began in December 2018; work to knock down the site and replace it with six four-bedroom, three-storey houses stopped unexpectedly, leaving the site unsecure.

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At a meeting of Tynedale Local Area Council at the time, county council planning officers said the site’s owner had been “indefinitely detained and could not continue to work.”

Now, there are renewed calls for action on the site.

MP Guy Opperman has asked Northumberland County Council to review its position on the state of the hall and to take action to ensure any work required is carried out quickly.

It comes after what he says are concerns from residents that the demolition may fall on council taxpayers.

He said: "Residents continue to raise concerns over falling debris and unauthorised entry into the premises. Local people are very anxious over this long-running situation.”

Prudhoe Town Councillor Tracy Gilmore added: "I drive along Swalwell Close daily and it appals me that this building has been left in such a derelict state. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

"I first raised concerns when windows were damaged and again when roof tiles were falling. This building needs to be demolished before it deteriorates further and becomes even more unstable.

"We have school children walking past the building daily to three local schools. I hate to think what could happen with falling debris. The local residents are absolutely fed up of this dangerous eyesore.’’

A Northumberland County Council spokesman, however, said the matter was complicated. 

He said: "The council fully appreciates the wishes of the community to address the current situation, and we are continuing to monitor the condition of the building to determine whether enforcement action is necessary to secure the building and ensure safety of residents. 

"The matter is complicated due to proceedings arising from the arrest and imprisonment of the owner of the building by the Crown Prosecution Service and the council is currently seeking further information from them in respect of future plans for the building following previous action under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002."

The site is owned by fraudster Stanley Miller who swindled almost £6million of public money but was stripped of his assets and ordered to pay back his illicit profits.  

Miller was jailed for eight years and three months in 2021 after he was caught out in a series of frauds which saw him pocket £5,952,339.57 of taxpayers’ money.

A complex investigation pieced together by HMRC found the 60-year-old had been deliberately evading paying VAT, Income Tax and National Insurance between May 1, 2008 and February 28, 2016, as well as laundering money and benefitting from criminal cash.