Blaze fears over disused drill hall

OWNERS of a redundant Ministry of Defence building have been urged to ensure the site is secure following a blaze that fire chiefs believe could have ended in tragedy.

An arson investigation is under way following a fire at the Drill Hall, in New Road, Framlingham.

It is believed a group of youngsters broke into the building at about 7.15pm last Thursday and set light to a desk, causing damage to the wall and ceiling.

Although no-one was hurt, Dave Atkinson, group manager with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, is concerned that if it happens again it could be a lot worse.

He has called for the site to be made more secure to prevent bored youngsters from gaining entry.

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“Some young people had got into the building via a window on the first floor,” he said.

“Our main concern is that should the young people get in there again and are unable to get out, then we could be faced with a far more serious situation – or even a fatality.

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“We discussed the issue with police at the time and expressed our concerns about the premises.

“It really needs to be secured more robustly than it is at the moment.”

The Drill Hall was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 2006 and the site is now owned by Cripps Development Ltd, in Beccles.

The company had hoped to knock down the property and replace it with housing but the plans were rejected by Suffolk Coastal District Council because the scheme was contrary to the local plan.

The Drill Hall Action Group, which was set up by residents in Framlingham, is now hoping the building can be preserved for community use – with the emphasis on young people.

Nick Corke, a member of the group, said: “It is a shame that children would decide to break in – especially in light of what we are trying to do.

“However, the very fact that they chose to do it shows they have not got anything better to do with their time and need a facility that they can use.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said the owners of the site had been spoken to.

A spokesman for Cripps Development said they took steps to make the site safe as soon as they were contacted by the authorities.

Anyone with information about last Thursday’s fire should call Suffolk police on 01986 835300.

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