Port factory deathtrap fear

THE abandoned Avon factory in Portarlington has fallen into such a dangerously dilapidated state that locals are mounting a campaign to take the building in hand.

THE abandoned Avon factory in Portarlington has fallen into such a dangerously dilapidated state that locals are mounting a campaign to take the building in hand.

People fear that if nothing is done soon someone will be hurt or killed by the many toxic chemicals and fire hazards in the building.

Although vacant since 1999, the red brick building, located on the town’s Canal Road, was kept in good condition over the years, while the owner of the property, Mr Mark McCormack of Clayborne Properties Ltd attempted to secure a new tenant for the lease. In recent months the situation has deteriorated

Margaret Guijt-Lawlor, a member of the Portarlington Dirty Old Towns committee and chairperson of the Portarlington Community Development Association (PCDA), said it was “devastating” to see the current condition of this once noteworthy landmark.

“It was well maintained until last year and there was security staff patrolling, but this is the first year the grass was not cut. The PCDA met with Mr McCormack, he was keen to get us up there and he was very actively trying to attract business. At Christmas the place looked great, but it’s devastating to see how bad it’s got,” she said.

Ms Guijt-Lawlor pointed out that several of the doors and windows have been broken into and children and teenagers are getting in and doing further harm. She also said she suspected the property was being used for drugs and other anti-social behaviour. While the gardaí do their best to monitor the situation, Ms Guijt-Lawlor admits that there is often little they can do.

“The gardaí are called on a regular basis, but as they go in the front door the kids run out the back,” she said.

Since Christmas copper piping has been stolen from the factory and on one occasion an intruder cut through a live electrical cable, which could have proved fatal. Of particular concern is the presence of dangerous chemicals which are being housed in canisters within the building.

“There was a chemical spill back in the day and the field next door was contaminated. In the factory are pallets of a neutralising agent which was used to neutralise the ground and kids can get access to it,” she explained.

The potential for a fire to sweep through the old building is also a very real danger, as there is a considerable amount of wood being stored which was earmarked for use by a timber frame company before the bottom fell out of the property market.

Ms Guijt-Lawlor has suggested the practical solution of using the wood to board up the windows and doors and she said there is “a great crew of volunteers” willing to do the work. Unfortunately, permission will first have to be obtained from Mr McCormack who has not returned any of Ms Guijt-Lawlor’s telephone calls in recent weeks, leaving her and her team of volunteers without any course of action.

Ms Guijt-Lawlor has now sent an email expressing her concerns to Laois County Council and is awaiting a reply. She states in the email that she hopes “that as a community we can bring this issue to a speedy and safe conclusion before a serious accident happens”.

Mr McCormack or a representative of Clayborne Properties Ltd was not contactable at the time of going to press.