CHILDREN playing in a derelict mill in the Borders are dicing with death, according to worried locals.

It comes after youths are said to have broken into the former Ballantyne Mill in Innerleithen by smashing windows and kicking in boards.

Neighbouring residents this week told how youngsters made their way up the fire escape with a torch, but ran off when they realised they were being watched.

Concerns are now being voiced that there could be a tragedy and parents are being urged to warn their children of the dangers of playing in derelict buildings.

The former mill is said to be in poor condition, with broken window panes, rotten floors and part of its roof missing – making it a potential death trap for children using it as a playground.

One resident, who did not want to be named, told the Border Telegraph that, when quizzed, the youths hurled cheek and gave them a ‘tall tale’ about looking for a missing cat.

She said: “My husband saw them throwing stones at the windows earlier in the day (Monday). They returned later in the evening trying to get in. It was the noise of them kicking the boarded windows that made us go and look.

“We tried calling the police but we never got through.

“We reported kids being in the mill about a year ago but when the police came out to investigate they were gone.

“We haven’t had a lot of problems since then, although someone told us the kids we saw are known to the police and they believe they have been in the mill site before.”

Residents overlooking the abandoned mill say the crumbling building is a safety hazard which becomes more dangerous every year.

“The building is in a derelict state,” said a neighbour. “Part of the roof is completely gone, we heard it cave in during the bad snow fall this year.

“Even the outside wall has large cracks that have appeared. Every winter it gets a bit worse.

“My husband gets worked up when he sees them in there as one of his school friends was killed in the same scenario in Penicuik.”

Parents are being asked to keep an eye on their children during the long, warm summer evenings.

Inspector Kevin Harris from Hawick Police Station said: “Abandoned and derelict buildings are entirely unsafe for members of the public to enter, and failure to adhere to the safety warnings and security measures in place around these sites could result in serious injury.

“I would advise our communities to stay away from any such premises and for parents and guardians to reiterate to youngsters within their care the associated risks of accessing a derelict property.”