Belfast Telegraph

Arson attack on former Newtownbreda Primary School

By Claire Cromie

Arsonists set fire to the former Newtownbreda Primary School building in south Belfast on Sunday night.

The fire started shortly after 10pm, spreading to part of the roof before fire fighters put it out.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said it believes it was started deliberately.

The old primary school, which closed five years ago, was purchased by Mencap from the South Eastern Education and Library Board in June to become the disability charity's new children and families’ centre.

Demolition is scheduled for October.

Una Brown, Mencap’s project manager, said: "Thankfully no one needed to be evacuated as the fire was contained quickly and confined to the back of the school.

"While the damage to the building was not as bad as it could have been, especially on such a windy night, we need to secure the site and make a full assessment of the extent of the structural damage before we can move forward with the project."

She said there were plans for a community day at the site for local residents and former pupils to say goodbye to the school before it is demolished. But this will now depend on the assessor's report on the state of the building.

The centre, which will provide services for children and adults with a learning disability, is scheduled to open in spring 2016.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP condemned the attack, saying: "It’s a sad example of the lengths some people will go to inflict damage on community infrastructure.

"The school has been closed for a few years now, and was only recently bought by learning disability charity Mencap who have lodged plans to redevelop it.

"I hope last night’s fire won’t affect those plans, or cause any difficulties for Mencap."

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