Asbestos fears following malicious fire at ex-cafe

Asbestos fears following malicious fire at ex-cafe

9 September 2020

A LOCAL politician has called for the removal of any remaining asbestos from a former cafe in Killyleagh which was destroyed in a malicious blaze.

Fire swept through the former Walkingshaw’s Cafe at Seaview at the end of June with the ferocity of the blaze so intense that firefighters from Downpatrick were joined by colleagues from Comber and Newtownards.

It took firefighters around two hours to extinguish the blaze with residents who live close to the derelict cafe advised to keep windows and doors closed until Newry, Mourne and Down Council environmental health officials had completed an inspection of the charred remains of the former cafe which had an asbestos roof.

Rowallane councillor, Billy Walker, said residents who live close to the building remain concerned about the asbestos issue and are keen to see any remaining material that there may be safely removed.

He confirmed that he is liaising with Newry, Mourne and Down Council environmental health officials who carried out an initial inspection of the burnt out shell of the property for asbestos.

“Council officials were also due to take action to prevent any remaining asbestos fibres from being blown towards adjoining homes,” continued Cllr Walker.

“Residents are keen that any asbestos that remains at the site is safely removed as they are concerned that fibres could be blown towards their homes via onshore winds. Some of the residents are still reluctant to open their windows.”

The Rowallane councillor said he plans to contact council officials to discuss what happens next and if steps will be taken to remove any remaining asbestos from the Seaview site.

He said that an initial clean-up was conducted at the former cafe in the wake of the malicious blaze with the area subsequently sealed off with security fencing.

“Firefighters wore masks as they battled the blaze after noticing the building’s roof was made from asbestos and while it was virtually destroyed, some small remaining sections of the roof are still visible. This is what is concerning residents,” Cllr Walker continued.

The Rowallane politician also issued a fresh appeal for anyone who knows anything about what he believes was a deliberate arson attack to contact police in order that those responsible can be apprehended.

He said the former cafe was one of Killyleagh’s most recognisable landmarks and believes that the remains of the structure may have to be bulldozed.

Cllr Walker added: “Walkingshaw’s cafe was once the main hub in the town and holds fond memories for many people. The building was very much part of the town’s history.”

Anyone who can help police with their enquiries into the blaze is asked to contact officers on the non-emergency 101 number, quoting reference number 99 of 29/06/20.

Information can also be passed anonymously using the confidential Crimestoppers number, 0800 555111.