Locals have been warning for years that a derelict Newcastle care home severely damaged in a fire this week was at risk of a blaze, a councillor has complained.
Flames tore through the roof of old North Road Care Home in Gosforth on Wednesday evening, leaving a large section of it destroyed. Northumbria Police subsequently launched an arson probe and four teenagers arrested on Wednesday evening have since been released under investigation.
But Parklands ward councillor Robin Ashby has now called on the owners of the Hollywood Avenue property to pay for the costs of firefighters and police tackling the blaze, saying they have been warned about its perilous state for years. Developer McCarthy Stone recently secured planning permission from Newcastle City Council to demolish the disused care home and build 29 retirement apartments in its place.
Coun Ashby accused those responsible for the land of taking “precious little notice” of locals’ pleas for the derelict site to be secured, saying: “This site has been derelict for some years. Local councillors and residents have repeatedly told the council and the owners that they have to safeguard it.”
The Liberal Democrat added: “The consequence is now a huge cost to the taxpayer. There were five fire engines there and about four police cars. I do not see why the public should be obliged to pay for this when it was something that was foreseeable and that the owners were repeatedly warned about.
“The site was already due to be demolished and redeveloped, so they are presumably going to make some money from that. I think they should be paying that cost to the public purse because this was a consequence of them not doing what they should have over a number of years.”
A spokesperson for McCarthy Stone, which took ownership of the site earlier this month, said the firm was “aware that this site has been a blight on the community for several years” and that the fire “underlines the importance of moving forward with the redevelopment”. They added: “We are truly sorry to hear about the fire which must have been incredibly distressing for nearby residents. McCarthy Stone staff are currently on site liaising with the Fire Brigade and our Demolition Contractor to decide on the most appropriate immediate action.
“Now that we have secured planning permission we will press ahead with our proposals and hope that antisocial behaviour like this should soon become a thing of the past in this location”.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “The former care home in Gosforth has been vacant for a number of years and the council worked with the owner to ensure the site was secure. The site was sold earlier this month and the council has now met with the new owners.
“We understand security will be deployed at the site to prevent further unauthorised access. The owners have indicated they wish to demolish the building in the future.”