From a correspondent:
Some urgent questions are being asked following the disastrous blaze that ravaged the old council offices at the Knowle, Sidmouth on 30 March.
It now appears that there was an earlier attempt to start a fire in the building on 26 March which was extinguished by the fire service with little damage being caused. So what additional security measures were taken by the owners as a result of this incident, and, apparently, why were guard dogs not deployed by them until after 30 March?
A fire of this scale inevitably has serious environmental consequences. Fire plumes carry toxic pollutants – parts of the damaged building are known to have contained asbestos – which can be deposited widely by wind and pose a threat to human, animal and plant life. In addition, water runoff from tackling the blaze can cause serious contamination. So, what tests have been, or will be made, to monitor the extent and degree of any pollution and who is responsible for them?
The Knowle housed an important maternity roost of endangered horseshoe bats. Have they suffered in the blaze?
I believe low cloud kept the smoke and pollutants in the valley during the fire. It almost seems strange that the owners didn’t act on learning of the first fire to ensure their obligations regarding health and safety to their neighbours were taken care of. What surprises me more is that we didn’t learn of the first one until well after the second. I was also puzzled how quickly the main one went off the radar of local media, until the criminal investigation was announced. That investigation should also cover those with apparently unfulfilled responsibilities.
Not that I am expecting much to be learned. Devon and Cornwall police have had an aversion to investigating criminal or corrupt activity where there is a connection with these premises. Whether it be Sara Randall Johnson’s legal action against the boundaries commission; the non investigation into Graham Brown, carried out I understand by a conflicted council officer rather than by a team of detectives; or the protection for many years of the paedophile John Humphreys, which included at least one officer threatening a victim and his family and friends, plus a consequent IPCO investigation which allegedly produced no paperwork.
I am sure more examples will follow. Time for the new chief constable or inspectorate to step up.
To be strictly fair to Devon & Cornwall Police, they actually have an apparent history of support for the Tory administration at East Devon DC which just happens to coincide with the occupation of The Knowle.
I am personally aware of at least 5 or 6 formal allegations of criminal conduct which might have reflected poorly on the Tory administration and which were not properly investigated by D&CP. And then of course there was the disclosure of information provided in a CONFIDENTIAL formal statement by an independent councillor to D&CP and which was passed ILLEGALLY in contravention of both Data Protection laws and D&CP policy to the EDDC CEO who then published it in an email (which was made public) in order to BULLY the independent councillor. I will stress, this is MUCH more than a single allegation – it is a pattern of behaviour which IMO appears to go well beyond coincidence or even negligence.
Whilst the process by which The Knowle was agreed to be sold and the amount that it was sold for might well benefit from historical scrutiny, I am not sure how this case of arson could involve the local Tory party, and so I can see no reason (other than general incompetence or lack of resources) why it should not be properly be investigated by D&CP.