Arsonists target Phoenix Children’s Centre in Mile Cross

Fire at the Phoenix Children's Centre in Mile Cross on Friday night. Photo by iWitness24 user Claire Williamson Fire at the Phoenix Children's Centre in Mile Cross on Friday night. Photo by iWitness24 user Claire Williamson

Sunday, December 16, 2012
11:33 AM

Arsonists have ruined Christmas for users of a children’s centre in Norwich after setting part of the building alight and destroying many of the toys and equipment stored there.

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The Phoenix Centre, on Mile Cross Road, was deliberately set on fire just before 10pm last night.

The blaze engulfed the roof of the central part of the former Baptist church, causing major damage to back rooms and serious water and smoke damage to a number of other areas.

It has left parts of the building potentially structurally unsafe.

Richard Herrell, group manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, this morning confirmed the fire – which took more than two hours to get under control – was being treated as arson.

He said: “About 10pm last night, we received calls for a building fire. On arrival crews realised it was a serious fire in the roof.

“We used six appliances and an aerial ladder platform to deal with it rapidly.

“I can now confirm the fire is being treated as deliberate ignition. The fire was started from outside the building. It’s caused significant damage to this well used and valuable community building.”

The Phoenix Children’s Project is a registered charity which runs the centre.

Peter Lemmon said the building was owned by the children of Mile Cross and run on their behalf by four trustees, including him.

He said: “From what we can see at the moment, most of the roof is gone so it will need a new roof. There’s a lot of other damage. They say in a couple of days’ time the ceilings could fall down.

“We don’t really know what damage is done inside. All the youth club’s equipment has gone. That was destroyed in those back rooms where the fire started. We think it’s a mixture of fire and water damage.”

The project, named after the bird which rises from the ashes, was created in 1999 after Norfolk County Council’s youth and community services made the decision to close the area’s former children’s centre on Peterson Road.

It was handed over to the community and, in 2006, moved into its current building on Mile Cross Road after local people helped to raise £500,000.

Mr Lemmon said he hoped the recently-renewed insurance would cover most of the repairs and replacements but trustees were still anticipating a major fundraising campaign to cover some of the work and keep the project going during what was already a difficult time financially.

He said: “There’s no government funding any more. We were already keeping it open on a shoe string.

“A lot of the groups that hired it during the day relied on government funding so they don’t meet anymore.

“We need to get money where we can – children’s parties, we have three churches meeting here.”

Norfolk Police have confirmed that they are carrying out an investigation into a suspected arson at the children’s centre.

Officers have spent the morning at the site.

In a statement, police said: “No-one was in the property at the time of the incident and no-one was injured.

“Police are treating the fire as suspected arson and are carrying out a joint investigation with the fire service. A seal is in place on the location and enquiries continue.”

Anyone with information should contact Norwich CID at Bethel Street on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Do you have photos of last night’s fire? Share them with us through iwitness24.co.uk

Are you a community group using the Phoenix Community Centre? Get in touch with reporter Victoria Leggett on 01603 772468 or email victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk.

See tomorrow’s paper for more on the arson investigation and impact on people who use the centre.

14 comments

  • Dear Sir Mr Metalwhatever, the million pound was for Catton Grove not Mile Cross .But as a resident of Catton Grove and as a time of giving at Christmas I would not mind our windfall going to these good people in their time of need. We Tory voters are not all nasty you know.

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Dear Sir Mr Metalwhatever, the million pound was for Catton Grove not Mile Cross .But as a resident of Catton Grove and as a time of giving at Christmas I would not mind our windfall going to these good people in their time of need. We Tory voters are not all nasty you know.

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • your right in what you say i agree,,,,

    Report this comment

    morello

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • What sad individuals some of those commenting below! So what if the building is in Mile Cross? Don't tar everyone with the same brush Seems armchair detectives have all the answers! It is always the bad that gets into the news never the silent majority. This truley is a sad event to happen to this group which provides many services for their local community despite cuts by Governments and Councils. I for one hope they do rise from the ashes as their name sake, and the community rallies round and helps them out. Perhaps people across the city reading this story may feel the same way Its Christmas so why not send them a Christmas donation which would be more useful, to quote a leading retail company 'Every little helps'

    Report this comment

    City Boy

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Oh dear perhaps if Lisa Lane read the article closely, she would see why the Centre is used by the folk she describes something to do with needing to pay the bills ie an income, and as for her children not benefiting has she concidered taking them along or does she expect them to come to her? Hope these guys can get back up and running again soon, this is a much needed community asset.

    Report this comment

    Barnsey Boy

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • There are times when I wonder whether some of the posters on here believe they are funny or if they really are that moronic. How would you feel if a village hall, community centre, pub etc near you was burned down? If you haven't got anything useful to say then keep your opinions to yourself

    Report this comment

    robotsthatcare

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • I used to hire a room there every week. All I saw was Peter and the other staff working for weeks on end without a break and what seemed like dozens of kids were always in there taking part in the parties and activities they offered. Disgusted by the cynical comments already posted here - some people don't have a clue. Yes church groups and others use the building for their meetings but private hires like those help keep the place going. Peter and the gang I'm so sorry you have this to cope with and I hope they find those responsible.

    Report this comment

    Lucy

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • I still think this money would be better spent elsewhere. They say its one of the poorer areas of Norfolk well what do they expect!!!!!!!L and I am not tarring everyone with the same brush but I have been a tax payer all my working life, I've had to work hard for what I have today, but I and many others must feel as though we are working so others can live!!!!!! Off the main subject I know but it's how I feel and no man in this land will change my opinion!!!,

    Report this comment

    melalmighty

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • I used to hire a room there every week. All I saw was Peter and the other staff working for weeks on end without a break and what seemed like dozens of kids were always in there taking part in the parties and activities they offered. Disgusted by the cynical comments already posted here - some people don't have a clue. Yes church groups and others use the building for their meetings but private hires like those help keep the place going. Peter and the gang I'm so sorry you have this to cope with and I hope they find those responsible.

    Report this comment

    Lucy

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • Have to say I'm surprised at Peter Lemmon's comment that the building was owned by the Children of Mile X and run on their behalf. I live less than 50 yards from it and I have a business 100 yards from it and didn't see any benefit for my children, there. It seemed to be run for evangelical happy clappy church people and clairvoyants. Certainly not for the local kids.

    Report this comment

    Lisa Lane

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • terrible, right on christmas too, its not always kids that do this thou,

    Report this comment

    morello

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Shocked and saddened by this. I have watched the volunteers over many years, they have invested their time, hopes and aspirations into the community.

    Report this comment

    solgal

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Sick individuals..should be ashamed of themselves! whether they are kids or adults they surely must have something better to do than do something like that!

    Report this comment

    Lou_1990

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Have to say I'm surprised at Peter Lemmon's comment that the building was owned by the Children of Mile X and run on their behalf. I live less than 50 yards from it and I have a business 100 yards from it and didn't see any benefit for my children, there. It seemed to be run for evangelical happy clappy church people and clairvoyants. Certainly not for the local kids.

    Report this comment

    Lisa Lane

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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