GALE force winds blew the roof off a derelict building, sparking anger that someone could have been killed in the drama.

The high winds struck last Friday, lifting part of the roof off a building on Blackburn Road, Church, leading to four days of traffic chaos.

The drama began around noon when severe gusts sent coping stones, masonry and debris from the Hargreaves warehouse, which has been empty for years, crashing down on to the road, narrowly missing pedestrians and motorists.

Police, fire crews and council staff were called to the scene and a section of Blackburn Road was closed while work was carried out to make the area safe.

Diversions were set up, taking drivers around Union Road and Thwaites Road, Oswaldtwistle, and the road was not re-opened until around midday on Tuesday.

The warehouse, which was built in 1836 and is a Grade II listed building, has long been a problem in the area due to its dereliction

Last year, the council served a notice of intent on the owners, giving it the power to carry out emergency repairs on the building, removing loose coping stones and securing the premises.

But no actual work was carried out and it is estimated that £39,000 would have to be spent to make the building safe.

The property is one of the main sites earmarked for the Church and Oswaldtwistle gateway project, a multi-million-pound regeneration scheme that will see new offices, flats and shops built along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "We know this is an old building which is causing problems.

"I think the answer would be to pull it down. If someone had been near it when the roof came off they could have been killed.

"It has been empty for a long time and I certainly can’t remember it being operational."

Councillor Jean Battle added: "Now this has happened, whoever owns it will have to do something about it. It seems to be a very slow process getting something done, but we do need to sort something out before the whole thing falls down.’’

Nearby businesses were also furious, saying customers had been driven away by the road closure.

Zubea Patel, at Church Post Office, said: "Everyone has been terrified and they are all talking about it when they come in. It is definitely driving my customers away as people say they are afraid.

"The building is very dangerous and people keep telling me I should complain about it. Something needs to be done."

Jeff Bull, managing director of William Blythe, based off Blackburn Road, said the chemical firm had been letting other businesses based on the Church Industrial Estate access their sites via its yard.

It is believed other businesses also had problems as customers were unable to reach them while the repairs were going on.

PC Gary Makin, of Accrington Traffic Police, confirmed that officers were called out to the scene last Friday after hearing reports that the roof had blown off