It's probably a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind but only 200 yards away from one Hartlepool's busiest shopping parades lies what is probably the town's biggest death trap. We're talking here of the now derelict Steetley Magnesite works last owned by CJC Chemicals.
With hardly a safety fence in sight, the works is wide open to exploring children and teenagers. We've made several visits to the site, each time children have been seen within the plant which contains enormous settling tanks part-filled with water, decaying machinery and underground tunnels and drainage ducts. The Council and especially it's Brus Ward Councillors cannot be unaware of the situation, so presumably they are crossing their fingers hoping that no dreadful accident occurs.
However, we have seen no sign of demolition or site clearance. Nor have we seen any sign of any on-site security. The site lies immediately north of the Brus Corner Shops and through the horse-shoe arch. This is a popular route for children on their way to the nearby beach.
The former Steetley site is without doubt a blot on the landscape. The 200ft Chimney can be seen as far as Sunderland and Saltburn while the rusting buildings contaminate the skyline of the northern part of the town.
Rail passengers using the coastal line in either direction are treated to an inescapable viewing when travelling. This treat will be extended to passengers of the new direct link to London service which everyone is hoping will begin in 2007.
Since March 2005, the site has been the subject of a planning application. The proposed developers, Culford Properties, are planning an £8m development for the 50 acre site which includes the building of between 450 and 500 new houses.
Despite its present state, the site, somewhat amazingly, is listed as a specially protected area. We say 'amazingly' because a short walk along this stretch of the North Sands would leave the walker wondering exactly what effort has been made to respect this status by preserving the area.
Nevertheless, that status is important principally because of the local flora and bird life that can still be found there. There are also issues of contamination to be dealt with before development can take place.