Site summit planned to tackle the scourge of fire-raising at former hospital site

© DC Thomson
The derelict Strathmartine Hospital had already been damaged by various incidents of fire-raising.

A multi-agency investigation has been launched to tackle the scourge of reckless and deliberate fires at the abandoned Strathmartine Hospital.

Scottish Fire and Rescue, Police Scotland and Angus Council plan to visit the site just outside Dundee in support of a joint assessment to see what further actions can be taken to put a stop to the potentially fatal fire-raising.

© DC Thomson
Strathmartine Hospital is in an advanced state of decay and has been targeted by fire-raisers while planning negotiations are ongoing.

Fire chiefs have also been working with local community leaders and targeting diversionary youth engagement towards schools in an effort to cut the worrying trend.

The former hospital for people with learning disabilities was decommissioned in stages from the mid-1980s and the site has taken a pounding by vandals and firebugs since it finally closed in 2003.

Monifieth and Sidlaw Lib Dem councillor Ben Lawrie said he believes the priority should be to find a use for the site “before one of these fire-starting numpties seriously hurts themselves”.

“It’s encouraging and a testament to the awareness-raising work of the fire service that fires in the Strathmartine hospital area have halved since the last quarter,” he said.

“There is still more work to be done though as these recurring deliberate fires are dangerous, they pose a risk to listed buildings and frankly the local community are sick and fed up with them happening again and again.

“I asked the fire service about the cross-border initiatives with our Dundee partners that are in place to tackle this problem and was reassured by the work they’re doing.

“A site visit with building standards and Police Scotland has also been organised in support of a joint assessment to see what further actions can be taken and I hope that we can put an end to this soon.

“As well as urging these repeat firebugs to cease their actions immediately I think the best thing we can do is hurry up and find a use for the site before much more damage is done.

“My understanding is that there is a pending application for planning permission to develop the site in to flats.

“I hope that this can be granted soon so that work can begin on breathing new life into the site.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Area Manager Gordon Pryde said “sustained action” has been taken to address deliberate fire setting.

He said the number of deliberate secondary fires at the site has been cut by half between October and December when compared to July to September.

“The total number of deliberate secondary fires stands at 98 and as a result of the significant spike experienced during quarter one, we are showing red for achieving the annual target,” he said.

“During quarter three, cross border initiatives with our Dundee partners continued to focus on tackling deliberate fires in the former Strathmartine hospital site.

“Looking ahead, a site visit with building standards and Police Scotland is organised for the former Strathmartine Hospital site.

“This visit is in support of a joint assessment, to determine what further actions the partnership can take, to tackle deliberate fires and other forms of anti-social behaviour.”

There were 15 deliberate secondary fires reported during quarter three, which is an increase of one in comparison to the same quarter in 2016/17, and a reduction 14 when compared to quarter two in 2017/18.

Angus Council’s development standards committee has had Strathmartine on its enforcement cases list for a number of years in connection with £50 million plans to put hundreds of new homes in the sprawling grounds.

Since 2003, fires have consistently occurred in various parts of the building, with police confirming that many were intentional.