BUSINESSES in West Kirby say the evacuation following the spillage of what has emerged to be a harmless chemical has had a "massive effect" on trade.

Emergency services were called to a disused building in Grange Road on Tuesday afternoon after reports that an estimated five litres of a substance, at first thought to be ammonia, had spilled.

Dramatic scenes followed as fire engines from West Kirby and Upton stations, ambulances and police vehicles all lined up along the road.

Officers from the Detection, Identification and Monitoring (DIM) team based at the operational resource centre at Kirkdale fire station were also called to the incident.

The main route through the town was closed to motorists for more than four hours.

Two men who had handled the mystery substance were checked by paramedics and given the all clear.

Residents in nearby roads were advised to keep windows and doors shut as a precaution following the incident.

Now business-owners say the evacuation badly hit trade.

Dan Barnes, owner of Nancie Henry clothing store, told the Globe he had to close for four hours while the incident was dealt with.

He said: “Obviously it was regrettable to lose a day’s business, which worked out at about £1,000, but we had to act and close.

“But I don’t want to undermine the work carried out by the fire service or police.

“They were doing a perfect job of ensuring the public were safe by closing the area for that time.” 

Merseyside fire group manager Chris Case said: “Our equipment showed there were no dangerous gases being released in the area or from the spilled substance.

“The substance dissipated naturally. There is no cause for concern for local people.

“Two specialist officers entered the area with gas monitoring equipment to help identify any risks.

“Adjoining premises were also evacuated as a precautionary measure.

“Everyone from businesses, local people and emergency services have been very co-operative and we are very thankful for that.”

The alarm was raised by staff at nearby Wetherspoons, who were forced to close the premises at the time.

A worker there said today: “The pub was busy and we had to evacuate, so it had a massive effect on trade.”

The Globe has contacted Merseyside Fire Service to try to put a figure on how much the operation cost, but a spokesman would only say expenditure for such alerts was already "in the budget".

Police said no comment regarding costs would be made without us submitting a Freedom of Information request as overtime and other matters might have to be taken into consideration.