‘Heritage buildings at risk of arson’

Alston Hall fire
Alston Hall fire

After a “worrying” rise in the number historic buildings being set on fire, Lancashire Fire Service is warning other heritage buildings could be under threat.

The service says more than half of the useable buildings on Historic England’s North West at Risk Register could become targets for arson.

Alston Hall Fire

Alston Hall Fire

A spokesman for the fire service said unoccupied buildings were most at risk.

In March, Grade II Listed building Alston Hall, which was being refurbished, was partly destroyed in a huge blaze.

The historic Victorian mansion building was badly damaged by the fire with a meeting scheduled for next week to decide if the fire was deliberate or an accident.

John Taylor, press officer for the county’s fire service, said: “If buildings are unoccupied they immediately become a target.

“Security is a big issue. It doesn’t take much for someone to hop over a wall to get in.

“Unfortunately when one of these buildings sets on fire it’s a significant event with lots of precious history lost.”

Several buildings around the county are on the at Risk Register including a wing of former Barton Old Hall in Barton and the Church of St George the Martyr on St George’s Street, Preston.

And because of this, Lancashire Fire Service is teaming up with Historic England to educate owners of heritage buildings.

Mick Dears, Lancashire Fire and Rescue watch manager, said: “There are some very simple measures which can be taken to dramatically reduce the chances of an arson attack. Awareness of the risk is the key.

“Owners and building managers must be aware that ‘arson could happen to us’ rather than thinking that ‘fire is something that happens to other people’. Effective arson risk reduction involves everyone who lives, works or volunteers within a building and its grounds.”