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Living in fear in Arson Alley

RESIDENTS living in fear of thieves, vandals and firebugs have nicknamed their street Arson Alley.

LONSDALE Street area of Accrington
LONSDALE Street area of Accrington

RESIDENTS living in fear of thieves, vandals and firebugs have nicknamed their street Arson Alley.

People in the Lonsdale Street area of Accrington were this week so scared of reprisals that not one of them was prepared to be named when interviewed by the Observer.

They fear arsonists will kill someone before long after 19 fires in two months.

Over the same period police have had 60 calls to the area which is scheduled for demolition and as more houses are left empty thieves move in, stripping lead and slates off roofs and torching buildings.

Residents have their windows broken on a daily basis, houses have been set alight, and a local businessman is offering a cash reward for information to convict the villains who broke into and damaged a caravan.

One concerned parent said: "This used to be a decent street. Now it's Arson Alley. We are living under a siege mentality.

"I used to live in the Manchester area and I have seen this happen there. I would like to see one of these empty houses given to the police to set up a presence in the area. There has been talk of people taking the law into their own hands because it's getting so bad. But some people won't even go to the police.

"The council is going to issue compulsory purchase orders on these houses and build a new estate. It calls it the Phoenix Project, well there's certainly a lot of ashes round here. It is really frightening and someone could get killed if it carries on."

Another resident in nearby Newark Street said she had her window broken twice recently by a brick and a milk bottle.

The commander of Hyndburn Fire Station, Assistant Divisional Officer David Bent, said fire crews had attended 19 property and rubbish fires in the vicinity in the last two months. He added: "That tells me there is a significant problem in the area, which never used to be.

He added: "We had one fire last week which spread into an adjoining property and smoke penetrated five house up the row. Anyone lighting fires is putting themselves and other people at risk. A house can soon fill with smoke before anyone realises. We are concentrating our efforts on getting people to fit smoke alarms. When a fire engine is at a rubbish fire it can't be at a more serious fire.''

Accrington Police said they had received 60 calls to Lonsdale Street in the past two months involving alarms, criminal damage, a burglary, suspicious activity and fires, which were being investigated.

Council leader Councillor Peter Britcliffe added: "I very much regret the disruption that is being experienced and the council wants to do its utmost to combat vandalism, arson and dumping."

Councillor Tony Dobson, the Cabinet member with housing responsibilities, said: "We will do our utmost to communicate with and support local residents during this period of intense change and we shall hold another public meeting very shortly to discuss the way forward.''


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist