Arson attack at Chichester allotment leads to devastation

John Hughes by the shed that was set on fire.Photo by Kate Shemilt.C139214-1
John Hughes by the shed that was set on fire.Photo by Kate Shemilt.C139214-1

ALLOTMENT holders were horrified after an arson attack at their site on Monday night (March 4).

A shed at St James Road Allotments was completely destroyed by fire after what West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service called a ‘deliberate ignition’.

Chairman of the St James Allotment Association John Hughes said: “It was a big shed so it left quite a bit of devastation.

“It is soul-destroying for the plot-holders.

“We do not expect this sort of thing. It is for the community so people can share and get together.”

He said two of the greenhouses nearby had sustained damage too, and other sheds had their locks broken.

Two fire engines from Chichester were at the scene from 9.30pm–10.38pm.

The allotment site, which has around 80 plots, is widely used by the community, and is popular with families who do not have their own gardens but want to grow their own food.

“We’re all quite shocked that this has happened,” said John.

“We are working through the winter in all weathers and then this happens overnight.”

Members of the allotment association have been busy trying to turn the site into a community hub, where they run special events for families, including their upcoming Easter event.

The fire is a blow to the association, which works hard to keep the allotments up and running, and had installed their first compost toilets only a year ago, after receiving a grant.

“We are all devastated. I do not know what they were after,” said John.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Police are investigating a suspected arson attack on garden buildings at allotments in Chichester.

“Officers were called to the scene at 9.30pm on Monday, by West Sussex Fire and Rescue firefighters who were suspicious of the cause of the fire that destroyed a shed and two greenhouses, all containing a large amount of gardening equipment.”

Sussex Police are appealing for witnesses of the fire, and ask anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area or who has any information is asked to call Sussex Police on 101 quoting serial 0471 of 04/03.