08 May 2007
Owners of a derelict dockside warehouse were today assessing the damage caused by a major fire at the weekend. The McArthur’s warehouse in Gas Ferry Road, behind the ss Great Britain, was set alight by arsonists on Sunday evening. A group of youths was seen running from the building, which is due to be demolished and redeveloped later this year, after the intense blaze began. Two homeless people who had been using the warehouse to sleep rough managed to get out before the fire took hold. Avon Fire and Rescue said 30 firefighters were needed to tackle the blaze, which started at about 8.30pm. They were at the scene for several hours and returned to the building yesterday to damp down and check for damage. Station manager Gary Carr-Smith said: “This was an intense fire on the second and third floors of the building. We believe it was started deliberately.”
The Victorian redbrick building, which has wooden floors, has been derelict for 20 years. It stands between the Albion dockyard and the ss Great Britain heritage site and has been at the centre of a lengthy planning wrangle over proposals for its redevelopment. A £26 million scheme to demolish the warehouse and build flats, shops and offices on the site was thrown out at a planning inquiry in 2002. London-based developers Quada came up with a new scheme which was eventually given the go-ahead in March 2005, in spite of continued opposition from conservationists who feared the proposed new buildings would spoil the views of Brunel’s historic ship.
Richard Bellman, of Quada (Harbourside) Ltd, said: “The McArthur’s building was already in an extremely poor state and is due to be demolished towards the end of the year to make way for new development. “Our security experts are reviewing the state of the building following the fire. There had been reports that people had broken in and were using the building, and we were taking steps to deal with this. “It was not however possible for our security team to check out exactly what was going on in there at all times as the interior is very extensive and it was too dangerous to venture into some areas of the building. “Once we have had time to assess the full extent of the damage we will decide what if any action needs to be taken to secure the building.”
08 May 2007