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Arsonists target historic building
RESIDENTS are concerned about safety after an arson attack on the old technical school college building in Victoria Road.
Vandals struck on Sunday evening, setting fire to the entrance hall of the derelict Victorian building, and neighbours said they could see flames and smoke coming through the windows.
Two fire crews attended shortly before 8pm and were joined by police after it was found that the fire had been started deliberately.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said that an investigation was under way into the cause.
Resident Toby Robson said more needed to be done to preserve the building.
He said: “There were a lot of residents out on the streets and people saying they could see flames, and I heard somebody talking about petrol and gas canisters being used.
“The security is non-existent – you only need to walk down there now and see that a door has been left wide open.
“Hoardings around the site have been missing for months and the building has been left almost completely insecure.
“A lot of residents are concerned about their own safety, with people squatting and needles being found in the alleyways.
“I feel disgusted that they appear to regard their duty of care to either the building, local residents, or the heritage of Swindon with such apparent contempt.”
Coun Dave Wood (Lib Dem, Eastcott) said: “This is a big problem – we know that arson is a big threat to our historic buildings, as we have seen from the Locarno.
“The security just seems to be appalling, it just seems to be open access. The local residents think the building should be celebrated but it could easily become another building that crumbles away like the Locarno or the Mechanics.
“It is something that I have raised with the council, and hopefully now this has happened they will take it seriously.”
James Digby, director of Ashfield Land, the developers who own the land, said work on developing the site was set to start in the near future.
He said: “We will be commencing very shortly with the re-development of the site.
“We have hoarding around the site and it is very frustrating but if people are determined to get into sites like the college then there is very little we can do to stop them.
“With the start of work soon hopefully that will stop anything like this from happening.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.