Derelict hotel fire was arson, police say
- Credit: Archant
A fire at a former Sheringham hotel is being treated as arson, police have confirmed.
The Southlands Hotel was set ablaze in the early hours of February 28.
Neighbours were forced to flee through the snow in their nightwear as six fire crews, as well as an aerial ladder platform and a water carrier were called to the South Street building shortly after 1am.
The fire, which incident commander and North Walsham station manager John Baker estimated had been burning for at least 30 minutes before emergency services were alerted by a resident, destroyed most of the top floor and roof of the building, with crews from Sheringham, North Walsham, Fakenham, Aylsham, Cromer and Holt battling for hours to bring the flames under control.
Neighbours were finally allowed back into their homes at around 6am, with firefighters continuing to work in freezing conditions through most of the rest of the day to damp down smouldering timbers.
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The hotel, which was built in 1911 by Sheringham master builder James William Weston, has been empty since it closed its doors to guests for the final time around ten years ago.
MORE: Drone footage shows devastation caused by Sheringham hotel fireIt is now owned by former Sheringham town councillor Stephen Booth, who also owns the nearby Crossways Residential Home in The Boulevard.
North Norfolk District Council chairman, Richard Shepherd, who lives not far from the hotel in Waterbank Road, said: 'This is tragic news for Sheringham, I remember the times that my family have celebrated anniversaries at the Southlands and the parties and dances we have had there – it is a very sad end to a wonderful old building.'
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A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said Norfolk Fire Service had liaised with the police to carry out an initial investigation, before handing over to the police.
A Norfolk police spokesman said: 'We are treating this as arson and an investigation is ongoing. If anyone does have any information we would encourage them to call North Walsham CID on 101.'
Mr Booth was unavailable for comment.