More than 100 homes evacuated after bomb squad deployed in former pit village

More than 100 homes have been evacuated in a former pit village after an Army bomb squad was deployed in the wake of a police operation.

South Yorkshire Police established a 100-metre cordon around a property in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, on Wednesday morning after “a number of suspicious items” were found as police executed a warrant on Brierley Road.

Later the force said about 130 homes were being evacuated warning affected residents they may be out of their properties for 48 hours.

Barnsley Council has opened a rest centre at St Luke’s Church for households with nowhere else to go.

The force said there are no schools within the cordon and pupils at schools nearby were picked up as normal.

A 58-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of offences under the Firearms Act remains in custody, police said.

A force spokesman said: “Around 130 homes are being evacuated while emergency services continue their response after a number of suspicious items were found at an address on Brierley Road following a warrant this morning.

“It is anticipated residents may be evacuated for 48 hours.

“Anyone evacuating is asked to pack a bag with all the essentials you may need for the next couple of days.

“Please consider any medication you may require and what arrangements need to be put in place for your pets.”

He said: “All roads within the 100m cordon are closed and members of the public are asked to avoid the area.

“Emergency services, the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team and other partners remain in the area.”

On Wednesday a large number of emergency services personnel and vehicles were still in the village, focused on a Royal Logistics Corps bomb disposal truck, which had a robot vehicle positioned next to it.

People said the police activity was focused on a nearby disused church building and adjoining house, which has been in the process of being renovated for a number of years.

Chelsey Woollard, who lives just outside the cordon, said: “Never in Grimethorpe. Even from being a young child.

“It was a beautiful village and this has come as a shock – not just to me but the whole village as well.”

Ms Woollard said she is a carer for her father and panicked as she tried to work out how to get to his home on the other side of the cordon.

“It was a big shocker,” she said. “There was a lot of ambulances, fire brigade, up and down the road all day.”

She said the village was full of rumours about what has been happening in the house.

“If someone didn’t catch it today, what would have happened? What could have happened?”

Ms Woollard said: “Everyone was out. It’s nice to know that everyone’s come together as a community, which Grimethorpe is.

“The police and the ambulance services – they’re working but they’re putting their lives at risk as well. You can’t thank them enough.”

Another man, watching the police activity, said: “You don’t get this very often here. They all came about 7am and it’s been bonkers since.”

Most families who were evacuated had gone to stay with friends, with very few using the council rest centre early on Wednesday evening.

A command post has been established next to the centre in the church, about 100m outside the cordon.

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley said: “We are very grateful to local residents for their continued patience and understanding as we carry out our vital work.

“This has already greatly helped our response and public safety will remain at the forefront of our minds as this investigation progresses.”

Leader of Barnsley Council Sir Steve Houghton said: “We’re working closely with our colleagues at South Yorkshire Police, and we have staff out in the area supporting their response.

“We have opened a rest centre at St Luke’s Church for people who are being evacuated and don’t have anywhere else to go.

“I urge local people to follow the advice from the police and keep them and their families safe.”