A fire officer has spoken of the long-term challenges of addressing deliberate blazes at the former Strathmartine Hospital.
The former hospital 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.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Area Manager Gordon Pryde said reducing deliberate fires is a key focus following the latest blaze which broke out at the site earlier this month.
He said: “For the year end, deliberate primary and secondary fires increased when compared to the annual targets.
“Over the past nine months, the number of deliberate secondary fires have been reducing, and this corresponds with the sustained action to address deliberate fire setting at the former Strathmartine Hospital site.
“During 2018/19 we are planning a wide range of initiatives, aimed at reducing deliberate fires.
“This includes working with Angus CLD, to pilot a youth mentoring programme at Arbroath Fire Station, and utilising the collective resources of the Carnoustie/Monifieth/Sidlaw Locality Partnership, to tackle the long-term challenges of addressing deliberate fires and other forms of anti-social behaviour at the former Strathmartine Hospital site.”
Mr Pryde said reducing deliberate secondary fires at Strathmartine was “a key focus of our attention”.
Monifieth and Sidlaw SNP councillor Beth Whiteside said the situation at the site continues to be one of the concerns raised by local residents at community council meetings.
She said: “Since its closure, the site has proven to be a magnet for vandals and fire raisers alike, causing great deterioration in the state of the buildings.
“This problem is something which continues to be taken seriously, and I admire the collaborative approach being put in place to deal with this, although I have requested a briefing for local members and community council members in order that we’re kept fully informed.
“However, it is worrying how much of a drain this is becoming on the resources of both the fire and police services.
“Obviously, the ideal scenario would be that this historical building is restored – at least for its architectural value, if not for the legacy it left in terms of how we dealt with the more vulnerable members of our society in the past.
“However, the longer the situation continues, the more difficult and costly it will be to restore the buildings and the less likely it is that this will be financially viable for any future developer.
“I welcomed the recent news of the planning permission, which was granted by Scottish Ministers, and hope that progress can now be made on redeveloping the site.
“However, the current owners must continue to be pressed to make the site as secure as possible, as anecdotal evidence suggests that more could be done in this regard.”
A Courier investigation recently revealed that firefighters spent over the equivalent of nearly two days dealing with call-outs to the former Strathmartine Hospital in the past five years.
A total of 31 hours were lost to the fire service in battling the spate of blazes, with more false alarms adding to the burden. Firefighters were called out over 60 times in the past five years to the site on the outskirts of Dundee.