Blaze-hit factory won’t be demolished

John O Connor pictured in the blaze hit building.
John O Connor pictured in the blaze hit building.
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A BUSINESSMAN whose factory was torched in a suspected arson attack has been told the building will not have to be demolished.

John O’Connor’s factory, on the Oakesway Industrial Estate, Hartlepool, was left a burned-out shell.

He feared the building would have to be knocked down after the blaze on August 3, which caused £250,000 damage.

Mr O’Connor was waiting to hear from a structural engineer if the building would have to be demolished.

He has been told the 300ftx 210ft structure, which was the former Hibernian Foods cake factory, is safe and can stay in place.

Mr O’Connor, of O’Connor Roofing Services, was planning an expansion of his 30-strong workforce on to the site.

He said: “The engineer has done a preliminary report and it looks as though we can save the shell.

“We have a lot to do on the roof but the structure itself, the skeleton can be saved.

“It is not in immediate danger of falling down. Obviously it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process but we won’t abandon the business expansion.”

Mr O’Connor, whose business is currently based on the town’s Tofts Farm Industrial Estate, said now that Oakesway has been earmarked as a Tees Valley Enterprise Zone, he is waiting to hear whether his firm could be eligible for grant aid that could go towards regenerating the building.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-five said: “We don’t know what the situation is yet.

“The enterprise zones hope to attract new businesses but ours has been established since 1945.

“We employ Hartlepool people and our intention was to expand and set up an in-house training scheme.

“But since the factory burned down, we don’t know what’s going on. We will have to make inquiries as soon as possible.

“The structural engineer’s report is good news and we have a good business, a good foundation and a good team.  “There could still be a silver lining.”

Mr Connor told the Mail it could have cost £60,000 to demolish the building.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “The fire is being treated as suspicious and inquiries are ongoing.”

Anyone with information is urged to call police on (01642) 302126 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.