Arson attack destroys derelict former Belfast training school
The former St Patrick's Training School in west Belfast has been destroyed in an arson attack.
The building, which had been derelict for some time, is on a site that was acquired by property developers Braidwater Homes earlier this year for a new housing development.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) confirmed last night that the blaze which gutted the building had been started deliberately.
A proposal to redevelop the 85-acre Glenmona site is currently making its way through the planning system, a spokesman for Braidwater Homes said last night.
It's understood the boarded-up empty building had been vandalised several times in recent weeks.
A NIFRS spokeswoman said that six fire appliances were scrambled to the scene to fight the extensive blaze.
"The NIFRS received a call to attend a fire at a large unoccupied building on the Glen Road in Belfast," she said.
"Fire-fighters used three jets and an aerial appliance to extinguish the fire. PSNI were also in attendance.
"The incident was dealt with by 8.23pm," the spokeswoman added.
"The cause of the fire has been determined as deliberate."
Fire-fighters from Springfield, Knock, Cadogan and Central fire stations were among the emergency teams who were tasked to fight the blaze.
Eglinton-based Braidwater Homes is planning to build approximately 650 new homes on the site, and is hoping to obtain planning approval by September 2020, and begin construction in late 2020.
Sinn Fein councillor Ronan McLaughlin told the Belfast Telegraph that the homes were essential as there were around 2,500 people on the NIHE's housing waiting list for the area.
The planned Braidwater Homes development - a mix of social and affordable housing - would make "quite a dent" in the waiting list, he said. The Black Mountain representative reckoned the fire was unlikely to make any difference to the timescale for the construction of new housing on the site, as the planning process was still at an early stage. Braidwater Homes said that as a result of the fire, the demolition process for the damaged building has been brought forward to next week - and the property has now been secured in preparation.