Northern Ireland

Newtownards high wind building collapse concerns

The wall, which has been covered with a false front, faces onto South Street Image copyright Press Eye

Concerns about the safety of a building that has partially collapsed during high winds were raised at Ards and North Down Council a month ago.

The former factory building on South Street, Newtownards, County Down, began to collapse on Sunday, shortly after police expressed fear it would fall.

Independent Councillor Jimmy Menagh told the BBC he reported his own concerns to the council last month.

He said the building appeared to be "bowed" and looked unsafe.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption A councillor says he reported concerns about the wall to the council in August

The council acted on his concerns by cutting trees and plants that had grown through the structure, said Mr Menagh.

The former factory site, which is opposite a number of occupied houses and flats, has been derelict for a long time.

The councillor, who passes the site every day, said a number of years ago it was covered in a false front, depicting a row of houses.

Image copyright Google Street View
Image caption Last month, the council cut down plants and trees that were growing through the building, putting pressure on the structure

It was funded by a government grant to "take the bad look" off the building, said Mr Menagh.

Police in Newtownards closed the road on Sunday evening, saying: "We fear the wall may collapse at any time due to high winds."

A short time later, a Transport NI spokeswoman told the BBC the building had come down and the remainder of the structure had been deemed unsafe.

Woman trapped

The high winds have also caused problems in other parts of County Down.

Fallen trees blocked the Belfast Road in Comber and the Portaferry Road at its junction with Ballygalget Road.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption A woman was seriously injured in a crash involving a fallen tree

A woman in her 30s was seriously injured when a large tree fell on her car near Comber.

The woman was freed from her vehicle by firemen on Sunday evening, and is now said to be in a stable condition.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Contractors were brought in on Monday morning to help clear the road

The road will be closed until 11:00 BST due to the size of the tree involved.

In Belfast, high winds also complicated an operation to extinguish a large fire at a three-storey building in Great Victoria Street.

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