Fire crews praised as site for learning centre in south Belfast is saved
A leading charity has praised the swift response of the emergency services who saved the site of a new centre for children with learning disabilities after it was targeted in an arson attack.
The attack on Sunday night happened at the old Newtownbreda Primary School in south Belfast.
Mencap's project manager, Una Brown, 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."
The old primary school, which closed five years ago, was purchased by Mencap from the South Eastern Education and Library Board in June with demolition scheduled for October.
"We were in the process of planning a community day at the school site for local residents and former pupils to say 'goodbye' to the school prior to demolition," said Ms Brown.
"This will now depend on the assessor's report on the state of the building, which may necessitate an earlier demolition than planned."
The Children and Families' Centre will provide children, young people and adults with a learning disability with support and services and is scheduled to open in 2016.
The Fire Service is treating the blaze, which was reported at at 10.10pm on Sunday – as a "deliberate ignition".