Council responds to suggestion arson-hit sports centre wasn’t secured ‘properly’
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‘A number of steps’ were taken to secure the former Whitchurch Sports Centre before it was targeted in a suspected arson attack on Wednesday (August 9), its owner Bristol City Council has claimed.
The devastating blaze ripped through the old sports centre at around 10am, triggering a major emergency response taking place which resulted in around 50 households nearby being escalated.
No-one was thankfully hurt. Yesterday, Avon and Somerset Police said an investigation has indicated that the fire was started deliberately, and an arson investigation has been launched.
As revealed by Bristol World on Wednesday, police had shared concerns over a potential fire at the building in the weeks leading up to the blaze, and warned the building was not secured properly.
Bristol World asked Bristol City Council when the site was last secured, and how. A spokesperson said: “Council officers took a number of steps to secure the former sports centre over recent weeks. The site is now being treated as a live crime scene with investigations underway by the fire and police services.”
As part of their appeal, Avon and Somerset Police want to hear from anyone who saw four young people - believed to be two boys and two girls - in the area at the time of the incident on Wednesday morning.
South Bristol Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Chris Starr said “We are aware there are some rumours around this incident and we would ask people not to speculate while our enquiries are ongoing.
“We are aware of an increase in calls relating to antisocial behaviour around the site in recent weeks. At this stage it is far too early to speculate whether any of these previous incidents are linked to the fire but we will keep an open mind while investigations work is ongoing.”
The centre, which closed during the Covid pandemic, was last operated by Active Sports. It is on the site of the former Whitchurch Airport, and was due to be knocked down for major housing development in the area.
Whitchurch Councillor Tim Kent said questions needed to be asked on why the centre was not secured properly. He added: “It was a sad day because there has been alot of history with that building for the community. But in recent weeks it has been targeted by young people.”
Witnesses or anyone who was driving in the area and has dashcam footage is asked to contact 101 and quote reference 5223192246. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.