Fire culprits slammed

POLICE and fire chiefs have slammed the culprits who started a fire in an empty building in Portishead.

Fire crews were called to a disused nursing home in Nore Road at about 6.30pm on August 3. Neighbours had made a 999 call when they detected a smell of burning coming from the premises.

The period property, formerly the Copper Beech nursing home, has been empty for some time.

Two appliances attended the scene and fire officers who extinguished the fire spent an hour at the scene before confirming they believed it had been started deliberately.

Portishead watch manager Neil Fletcher said: “On the evening of the fire four young children were seen leaving the premises an hour before we got the call at 6.30pm.

“I had to commit four firefighters in breathing apparatus to search the property as there were reports of people using the building as a squat.

“The building was in a poor state upstairs and therefore my firefighters were being put at risk. Luckily the fire had not spread too much and we were able to extinguish it quickly.”

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Members of the Portishead police team already regularly patrol the adjacent former St Joseph’s School and convent buildings, after numerous reports of youths scaling the walls, breaking in and gathering in the derelict properties. Evidence of small fires in the premises has also been found.

PCSO Deborah Charman said: “It is very dangerous for people to enter these old, disused buildings as many are in disrepair and considered unsafe. In addition, the crimes involved include criminal damage, burglary and arson, all of which will be dealt with positively by Portishead Safer, Stronger Neighbourhood Team.”

PCSO Charman confirmed that the Copper Beech will now be added to their patrols.

The former nursing home is earmarked for demolition in the coming months, after planning permission to build five town houses on the site was granted in July.

Plans have also been submitted to demolish part of the former St Joseph’s School buildings to make way for a care village. The site includes a Grade II-listed building, but the proposals include keeping the listed building and converting it into self-contained suites.

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