ARSONISTS who firebombed a Durham town centre a year have yet to be caught by police.
Detectives have yet to establish a motive for the attack on the Front Street in Stanley, County Durham, which wrecked four businesses. It came just days after a conservationist called for a halt to the proposed demolition of the listed buildings. Nearly 300 people had signed a petition organised by the Osborne Conservation Trust in relation to plans to reshape Front Street, in Stanley.
One of the buildings the Trust had hoped to save was the 19th Century two-storey former Co-op building which was wrecked by a firebomb attack in the early hours of June 16, 2008.
The trust had lodged an official objection with Derwentside District Council. The Co-op building was due to be bulldozed to make way for a proposed £60m development. But the credit crunch now appears to have put paid to the plans, which involved building a giant Asda store on part of the site. Planning officers last month approved more modest plans for the site, involving the creation of six retail units on the Front Street.
Retired planner Kenneth Osborne-Grant, founder/director of the Osborne Trust which aims to protect Victorian and Edwardian buildings in Stanley, and who had organised the petition, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the new plans. Small individual shops in Stanley are a far more attractive proposition than a huge superstore.”
Meanwhile police are continuing to hunt for the arsonists. Three masked men were seen fleeing the scene at 3am in a Ford Transit which was found burnt out in nearby Rose Avenue. Nobody has been charged.
Four businesses – a snooker club, an electrical store, a travel agent and a furniture store – were wrecked in the blaze. Former Derwentside District Council leader Alex Watson described the firebomb attack as “an act of terrorism”, adding: “It was obviously designed to strike fear into somebody.”
Traders operating next to the building also saw their businesses hit because fire officers sealed off the top half of Front Street, saying shoppers would be endangered by falling masonry. Anybody with information should ring Durham Police on 0345 60 60 365.