An arson attack on a derelict building in Donaghadee has been deemed the latest, and most serious, incidence of anti-social behaviour in the area.
A former parochial house on the Millisle Road in the town, was discovered on fire on August 13; it was also reported ‘further noises’ were heard at the site of the 120 year-old property after the blaze.
Residents in the area have told local politicians they have been ‘tortured’ by ongoing anti-social behaviour at the three-storey building.
Police have pledged to increase patrols to address residents’ concerns, including that the building was being used as a drinking and drug den and constantly targeted by vandals.
Three years ago planners refused permission to have the parochial house demolished and replaced with a daycare nursery, citing the building was ‘valuable’, of ‘historical, cultural and visual significance’, and located within Donaghadee’s conservation area.
In those three years, nothing was done to protect the building, as it deteriorated into a dangerous condition, with collapsed ceilings and perilous floors.
However public concerns remain high that the derelict building, which has been described as being in a ‘dangerous’ condition with ‘collapsed ceilings and perilous floors’ was being used as a ‘playground’ by young people.
Following the blaze, local police have sought to reassure residents and the wider public alike, and have called on local parents and guardians to warn their young people of the consequence of getting involved in anti-social behaviour.
Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Hanna said: “At approximately 10.55pm we were contacted by our colleagues in Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. Officers assisted with traffic management while they extinguished the fire. They later confirmed that they believed this was a deliberate ignition.
“Police are aware of community concerns around anti-social behaviour at the property and have increased proactive patrols in the area as a result.
“We do not want to see anyone being injured as a result of being there without proper authorisation and would appeal to anyone involved in this type of behaviour to stop. Thankfully, Sunday’s fire was fully extinguished before it could spread or cause injury, but the consequences could have been much more serious.”
Inspector Hanna said: “I would ask local parents and guardians to speak to their young people about where they are and who they are with, and to warn them of the dangers of getting involved in behaviour which could result in them injuring themselves or others. Ultimately, they could end up with a criminal record which may impact their future employment and travel prospects.
“Anyone with information or CCTV or dash-cam footage that could assist with the investigation into the fire, should contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 1985 of 13/08/23.
“A report can be submitted online using the non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/.”
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said they were alerted to the Millisle Road fire at 10.52pm.
She said: “Four fire appliances attended the incident, one from Donaghadee Fire Station, two from Bangor Fire Station and an aerial appliance from Knock Fire Station.
“Firefighters were called to a fire in a large three storey derelict building. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used three jets to extinguish the fire. The fire was extinguished by 1.29am and the cause of the fire is believed to be deliberate ignition.”