A DEVASTATED businessman who pleaded with a council for years to improve security on an industrial estate has been forced to close his doors for good after being targeted by burglars.

Barry Longstaff, the owner of fishing tackle shop Hooked, lost thousands of pounds worth of stock and his computer when burglars struck at the weekend, smashing down shutters before loading up a hatchback vehicle with their loot.

In light of the burglary, which took place between 1.22am and 1.42am on Sunday, July 27, Mr Longstaff will have to close the premises.

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He says the situation could have been different if Middlesbrough Council had listened to the concerns of traders on the Lawson Industrial Estate.

The traders have been lobbying the council for around three years in a bid to get gates installed at the entrance to the Lawson Way compound, where Hooked is based.

They were told that gates would not be allowed because the area is a public right of way – however, the rest of the compound is fenced off, with no other way in or out.

Mr Longstaff said: “I knew the business was a target, they’ve tried to break in before but what can you do? All I could do was try to slow them down.

“I had it like Fort Knox but they smashed open my shutters and doors and made a right mess.

“I’m going to have to close, I’ve had enough, I’m absolutely gutted and would love to get my hands on them.”

He added: “A gate would have made a difference as they wouldn’t have been able to just drive in, they wouldn’t have been able to get past locked and barred gates.

“We’ve been asking for one for ages but the council won’t let us put one up, even though we’ve offered to pay.

“They say it’s a right of way but it’s commercial premises and everywhere except the entrance is fenced off.

“I’m not saying this wouldn’t have happened but they wouldn’t have been able to drive in and load up all the stock like they did.”

Middlesbrough Council is currently looking into the matter.

Anyone with information about the incident can contact Cleveland Police on non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.