Emily still taking the fight to Maccess owners

13-year-old Emily Warrillow, who presented a petition to Kirklees Council. (D535B443)
13-year-old Emily Warrillow, who presented a petition to Kirklees Council. (D535B443)

A teenage girl from Gomersal became the youngest person to ever address Kirklees Council’s cabinet when she spoke at a meeting this month.

Emily Warrillow, 13, presented a petition to demolish the derelict former Maccess building off Spen Lane, which has been subject to vandalism and arson over the past few years.

Her petition has since gained hundreds of supporters, and she was invited to address the council cabinet by Liversedge and Gomersal councillor Simon Alvy (Lab).

She told the meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall: “The Maccess building is an eyesore and a danger to the community.”

The Reporter Series first covered Emily’s quest to get the building demolished last year, after she got in touch with the building’s owner, London-based venture capitalist Mark Whitehead.

In a letter, she told him the building was a danger to other young people in the area who were entering it.

Mr Whitehead’s response to her blamed vandalism on “destructive” parts of the community, and he suggested she get in touch with the school and local police to tell people to stay out.

Emily since set up a petition urging the owners to demolish the uilding for the good of the community. She announced at the meeting that her petition had now gained 498 signatures, to rapturous applause from councillors.

She then added: “I have been told that houses will be built on the land, but nothing has been done about it.

“I am still waiting for something to be done.”

Council leader David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said: “I think you have expressed the concerns about this very well.

“This building has been on the agenda of the Neighborhood Management Group for about three or four years now.

“They say it’s not safe for their fire officers to enter that building, the police have expressed concerns, and all three ward councillors have expressed concerns constantly about this building. We have tried all the powers that we can use.”

An order had been served on Mr Whitehead’s company Castle Rock Capital to knock down the building last year, but no demolition has yet taken place. Mr Whitehead said previously that it would not be financially viable for him to demolish the building until he had planning permission for houses, which would increase the value of the land.

Coun Sheard added: “The building is currently under offer, we are trying to secure the building. We are looking at whether we can demolish the building and charge for it, but if we did that, it might delay the sale. So we are looking for the quickest way to get that building down.

“The only resolution is for the building to be demolished.”