Residents are ‘living in fear’

A FIRE started at a known anti-social behaviour hotspot as Erewash MP Jessica Lee was visiting residents this week to discuss the problem.

John Bell, 69, has been campaigning for three years to get something done about the disused allotment at the back of his and other homes on Walnut Close, Ilkeston.

Mr Bell spoke to the Advertiser last week after he said another fire at the old allotment could have cost him his life if it was not for a neighbour.

Miss Lee visited Mr Bell to see the site for herself.

She said: “Last weekend Mr Bell’s worst fears were realised so I’m working to find out what can be done to help him and other residents.

“He’s living permanently concerned that a fire will break out and there are other problems that have been reported too.

“I’ve asked the council to see what we can do to put an end to this.”

Mr Bell told the Advertiser that people on Walnut Close are ‘living in fear,’ he said: “It’s only a matter of time before someone is killed.

“There’s one building left and if that goes up so will the house it’s at the back of. There’s always kids over there, under age drinkers and druggies, smashing things up, starting fires and just causing trouble.

“After three years it’s about time something was done, it’s making people’s lives a misery, the stress is making some people ill and that’s just not right.”

Crews from Ilkeston fire station have been called to the land 12 times since 2008.

Ilkeston fire station manager, Gary Platts, said: “What’s frustrating is that these fires are avoidable.

“Fire isn’t the only risk at the site, because of the nature of what some people do at the site there are other dangers to firefighters.

“Our main concern is the safety of the residents and the safety of the crews called to fires there.”

Sgt Doug Neely, in charge of Ilkeston’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams, added: “We are working closely with our partners and local residents to try and resolve this matter.

“What concerns us is that the fencing around this site is in poor repair and allows access onto the old allotment site.

“Concerns have been raised to us that persons have been entering this site so we have subsequently increased patrols in this area.”

Ian Sankey, director for resources at Erewash Borough Council said: “This land is privately owned and, as such, this makes it a more complex issue.

“The Community Safety Partnership will continue to try to address the concerns surrounding this piece of land.

“This will include a Partnership meeting, to which the landowners will be invited, to discuss the concerns and see if a solution can be found.”