Calls to demolish vacant school badly damaged in suspected arson

Firefighters prepare to enter St Peter's on Wednesday night. DER 3613SL302
Firefighters prepare to enter St Peter's on Wednesday night. DER 3613SL302

There have been calls for a vacant Derry school badly damaged in a suspected arson attack last night to be demolished.

Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell said since St Peter’s High School closed in June there have been a number of incidents at the site.

“Plans have been submitted for over 100 new homes in a social housing project on the site and it will be some way off before any plans become a reality. It’s crucial now that the old school is demolished and the site completely cleared,” he said.

Wednesday night’s fire began around 9pm. At one stage nine fire appliances and more than 50 fire-fighters attended the blaze.

Fire service Assistant Group Commander Mark Smith said he believed the fire may have been started deliberately.

“”There has been extensive damage to the roof of the main section of the building and also there was a fire within the building as well. It was heavily smoke-logged,” he said.

Councillor Campbell added that the school site had become “a magnet for much anti-community activity in the area.

“Since the school closed in June there have been a number of incidents of vandalism at this site. Windows have been smashed, the school canteen set on fire and now we have this major fire.

“This is a large site and very hard to secure twenty four hours a day and sadly has become a magnet for much anti-community activity in the area.”

He paid tribute to the fire service, who remained at the scene until the early hours of this morning.

“I would like to thank the work of the Fire Service who dealt with this fire for several hours and would appeal to anyone in the community who has any information on who was involved in this incident to bring it forward to the police.”

SDLP councillor Jim Clifford said the fire comes only days after the school was deliberately flooded.

Councillor Clifford, who attended the scene and spoke to firemen tackling the blaze, said:”It is a disgrace that this incident has happened. The people of Creggan are disgusted by this fire.

“This school has served the local community for generations.

“It is fortunate that no-one was killed.

“A few days ago young people also broke into the school, turned on taps and flooded the building.

“I would hope that it is now demolished as the school is a magnet for antisocial behaviour.

“If this sort of behaviour continues some young person is going to be badly injured or possibly killed,” he said.